Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Pinkerton Josephson loves to dig into the past. She believes that behind every person, every relationship, there lies a story. Her award-winning biographies, history books, and picture books include fiction and nonfiction for children.  She has also written for adults. In this column, she blogs about the reissue of her biography of detective Allan Pinkerton as an ebook.

Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye

More than one hundred fifty years ago, when the Midwest was still young and rugged, a tough, burly Scottish immigrant named Allan Pinkerton founded the first detective agency in America. The Pinkerton Detective Agency vowed to catch criminals, recover stolen property, gather information, and investigate fraud. The agency’s motto was “We Never Sleep,” its logo a wide-open eye.

When I was a child, friends asked me if my family was related to this famous detective. That sounded exciting, but we were not relatives. Still my curiosity led me to write a biography of him, now newly reissued as an ebook. My research for the print book from Lerner Publications took me to Van Nuys, California, then the headquarters of the modern agency. I spent the day there poring over stacks of documents, letters, and photos. The methods Pinkerton used were simple, but in 1850, they broke new ground. Facts and codes were recorded in small black notebooks. His agents worked undercover, sometimes in disguises their own mothers wouldn’t recognize. I held Pinkerton’s codebook in my hands, gazed at the memorabilia in glass cases, and marveled at the massive Diebold safe that stood in the lobby. Much of what I saw came from a time when there were no armored trucks, no huge bank vaults, no safe places to keep money, no computers! A time when the first Pinkerton operatives chased railroad and bank robbers by train, horseback, or on foot.

SB_Allan Pinkerton_v3In the revised and updated ebook, I give details about how Pinkerton got into detective work, his work on the Underground Railroad, the famous outlaws and bandits he chased, such as the Jesse James and Reno gangs, and the formation of the first female detective department within his agency. Because of his friendship with Abraham Lincoln, Pinkerton and his agents protected Lincoln on the way to his first inauguration. I also wrote about Pinkerton the man—his habits, challenges, and his penchant for practical jokes, such as upending a fishing boat filled with his guests at his Illinois estate, the Larches.

The research for this book fascinated me. After the print book was published, public interest went beyond my target audience to older students and adults.  This enabled me to appear on the A & E Biography and Discovery television programs. (My fifteen minutes of fame!) View clips of those appearances on YouTube: Judith Pinkerton Josephson, Author.

The Pinkerton Detective Agency made history. Its story began with a maverick Scotsman who helped shape the meaning of the word “detective” for decades to come. Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the modern agency is in full swing today. The Library of Congress now houses Allan Pinkerton’s hundreds of letters, records, and photos. The words in these archives bring to life one of the most colorful men of the 19th century.

Check out the ebook on Amazon at  Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye (for readers middle grade and up, plus older readers)

Visit me at www.judithjosephson.com, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(The agency is now located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.)— I pored over stacks of documents and actually held Pinkerton’s code book in my hand.

 

Today in the United States and other countries, a myriad of law enforcement and surveillance agencies exist. But it wasn’t always so. He didn’t start out to be a detective.  As a young man back in Scotland in the 1830s, he was part of a resistance movement called the Chartists fighting against British control over working people’s lives.  “I wasn’t on the side of the law then.”

When authorities put a price on Pinkerton’s head, he left Scotland for America with his young bride Joan. Back then, he was a cooper, a maker of barrels to hold grains, beef, beer, wine, and other goods. But in Dundee, Illinois, when he cracked a counterfeit ring making phony money, the local sheriff started asked him to solve other crimes. At the same time, Allan and Joan began operating as a safe house for runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. Because he believed slavery was wrong, he justified breaking the law.

After Allan and his family moved to the fast-growing city of Chicago, he became its first private detective, a move that led to his founding his own agency in 1850. At that time, few detective agencies existed in the United States. Pinkerton decided Pinkerton’s central office looked like a backstage theater wardrobe room. Big trunks held hats, boots, suits, and other clothing. On a specific case, a detective might have to act the part of a bartender, a horse car conductor, a watchmaker, or a gambler. His agents were called operatives and each had a code name. Soon railroads began hiring him and his agents to catch train bandits; banks asked him to tackle gangs of bank robbers.

 

Because of Allan Pinkerton’s friendship with Abraham Lincoln,. Because of the initial publication of this biography, I had the opportunity to appear on the A & E Biography and Discovery programs on television.

 

The Pinkertons made history. Their story began with a maverick Scotsman who founded the first detective bureau in the United States and helped shape the meaning of the word “detective” for decades to come. The Library of Congress now houses Allan Pinkerton’s hundreds of letters, records, and photos.

The words in these archives and Allan Pinkerton’s legacy bring to life one of the most colorful men of the nineteenth century.

Check out the ebook at : (add bitly link)

Save

Save

Save

Time for New Year Grammar Pop Quiz

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

Fireworks crackle. Champagne corks pop.Fireworks

With the New Year comes a cracklin’ good POP Quiz.

You know the drill:

  • Multiple choice and one essay question.
  • Answers at the end.
  • No peeking.

 

1. What’s new, if you don’t mind (me/my) asking.

2. He used the same chess strategy with my sister and (I/me).

3. Dogs love chewing bones. (Its/ It’s) their hobby.

4. If you think (us/our) being civil is vital, you’re right.

5. (Active or passive?) The game was won by Cleveland.

6. Let Norma and (I/me) try first.

7. If you don’t mind (them/their) joining us, I’ll invite them.

8. Thanks for (you’re/your) help. (You’re/Your) the best.

9. He took John and (I, me) to Disneyland.

10. Occupational therapist: “(Lay/Lie) on your side.”

 

Essay Question: Why does grammar matter even in everyday speech?

If you need a refresher, the column the tips appeared in is listed. Just go to the eFrog Press blog post, “Why does Grammar Matter to Authors?” to read more.

 

Answers:

1. What’s new, if you don’t mind my asking.

(December 2016: “Hold That Line! Make a Touchdown with Gerunds”)

Use possessive pronouns before gerunds—ing verbs.

 

2. He used the same chess strategy with my sister and me.

(October 21, 2014: (“How to Avoid Pronoun Errors: The Grammar Patrol Shares Favorite Bloopers”)

Lots of pronoun clues.

 

3. Dogs love chewing bones. It’s their hobby.

(September 2015: “Briefly Speaking: The Long and Short of Contractions” Contractions) “It’s” is short for “It is.” The possessive “its” never splits.

 

4. If you think our being civil is vital, you’re right.

(December 2016: “Hold That Line! Make a Touchdown with Gerunds”)

Use possessive pronouns before gerunds—ing verbs.

 

5. (The sentence is passive.) The game was won by Cleveland.

Contrast this with the active “Cleveland won the game.”

(November, 2015: “Add Power to Your Writing: Understand passive and active verbs”) Passive voice: The person or subject is acted upon.

Active voice: The subject does the action.

 

6. Let Norma and me try first.

(October 21, 2014: “How to Avoid Pronoun Errors: The Grammar Patrol Shares Favorite Bloopers”) Those tricky pronouns.

 

7. If you don’t mind their joining us, I’ll invite them.

(December 2016: “Hold That Line! Make a Touchdown with Gerunds”)

Use possessive pronouns before gerunds—ing verbs.

 

8. Thanks for your help. You’re the best.

“You’re is the contraction for “You are.”

“Your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your New Year’s resolutions.”

 

9. He took John and me to Disneyland.

(September 2015: (October 21, 2014: “How to Avoid Pronoun Errors: The Grammar Patrol Shares Favorite Bloopers”) Pronouns.

 

10. Occupational therapist: “Lie on your side.”

Hens lay. People lie (recline).

 

As for the essay question, let us count the ways . . . as you have in your excellent essay!

Here’s what Marilyn Vos Savant, Parade Magazine’s resident brilliant nerd columnist, had to say on October 2, 2016: “You need to learn every rule of grammar because this lays the foundation for high-quality adult communication . . . the ability to express yourself clearly and well.”

Need more specifics on punctuation or other grammar conundrums? Check out our two zany grammar guides—Nitty-Gritty Grammar: A Not-so-Serious Guide to Clear Communication and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar—loaded with cartoons, tips, and blooper pitfalls. Order ahead for birthdays, holiday gifts, work promotions, graduation, and quick reference for school, home school, and office. Tell your grammar-challenged pals!

Send your grammar queries/peeves/observations to www.grammarpatrol.com or pop us a comment below.

 

An American Saga: Tales of Five Generations Feuding through the Centuries

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Richard FitchenRichard Fitchen, BA MA MLIS PhD, was a firefighter and National Guardsman before teaching at the University of Washington and the University of California (Berkeley and Santa Barbara). He served as the social sciences bibliographer in Yale University’s Libraries and retired as bibliographer and reference department head at the Stanford University Libraries. He now writes full time and enjoys traveling with family.

 

AnAmericanSagaLogo

 

The final volume in the sweeping  An American Saga series has just been published! Imagine five stories that span the pageant of America’s national history, each story based on a new generation of two families locked in mortal conflict. These stories reveal how the protagonists exploit new technologies that dominated America’s development.  Use of wind power in the eighteenth century, steam power in the nineteenth, and internal-combustion engine power in the twentieth present a background against which America’s unique social, economic, legal, and political portrait is celebrated in this series.

Staircase to Liberty by Richard FitchenIn the first book, Staircase to Liberty: Joseph’s America, Britain still rules America. Joseph LaBarre’s parents and siblings are brutally massacred in Acadian Maine and Joseph is abducted into the Royal Navy. Starting anew in Philadelphia, he takes back a large schooner stolen from his family by the murderous Angus Cameron. Joseph arms his schooner with cannons, and French admirals teach him how to attack Britain’s powerful warships. When Joseph’s trading business is threatened by London, he convinces patriot leaders including Washington and Jefferson that unfettered trade is necessary to achieve liberty. Meanwhile, Cameron plots to destroy Joseph and to cripple the fledgling United States.

Justice on Trial by Richard FitchenIn the second book, Justice on Trial: Louie’s America, Louisiana is America’s booming frontier. Louie LaBarre makes New Orleans his base for steamboat river trade, a new bank, and grand sugar plantations. Domineering King Cameron launches military, political and legal attacks against Louie. Their rivalry is intense, but only one titan will control the rich cotton trade and thus decide the fate of slavery. Louie’s passion for a beautiful collared Creole and his daring intrigues in Cuba lead to trouble, and Cameron’s cronies move in for the kill.

United by Covenant: Ben's StoryBook three, United by Covenant: Ben’s America, opens with Ben LaBarre as a young minister in Connecticut. He was raised in the south and is burdened by circumstances of his mixed race but driven by purpose. In New York City, he launches crusading magazines that bring readers face to face with the most important contemporary figures defining America’s experience with railroads while overcoming civil war, adjusting to massive immigration, and managing ruthless industrialists. Despite his public achievements, Ben faces terrible personal loss and sacrifices that spill over onto a new generation.

Richard Fitchen Republic in TriumphThe fourth book, Republic in Triumph: Jessie’s America, brings readers to twentieth century growth of business and government. Jessie LaBarre is an indomitable and courageous attorney who advises presidents and CEOs, and she paves the way for America’s revolutionary development of automobiles and airplanes. She also spurs the growth of civil liberties, labor relations, women’s rights, and collective security. Readers meet leading men and women of the tumultuous decades from Theodore Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson. Subversive and racist Cameron men plot to destroy Jessie and her family.  She wins convictions against some of them, but a ruthless new generation of enemies extracts a terrible price.

Fitchen_Proof of Concept_Cover_FINALThe fifth and final book, Proof of Concept: Bibi’s America, opens with an insane serial killer stalking Bibi LaBarre, who also suffers the loss of trusted partners. But she perseveres as an angel investor supporting tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, and she promotes nonprofits and NGOs. Her personal life is blighted by tragedies and self-doubts that she must surmount to find joy. One of the Camerons appears to help her, though he’s really helping his family, but a next-generation Cameron rises to challenge Bibi’s vision for the future and to subvert humanity.

All five volumes in An American Saga series are available in paperback and ebook through Amazon. Richard Fitchen delights in making history come to life through story. Learn more about his writing in his blog post My publishing journey writing historical fiction and in a newspaper interview: “Encinitas author’s books portray sweeping story of America.” Visit RichardFitchen.com for more information.

Banish the Keys Talk! Welcome to Freewheeling

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

This week author and gerontologist Judi Bonilla writes about a topic of great concern to many–how to remain independent as we age. Freewheeling After Sixty is a book that provides answers from a well informed source. Read on for Judi Bonilla’s advice on a timely topic.

 

Banish Keys Talk

IS_ebookcover_FreewheelingMedDid you really say banish the keys talk? Why yes I did because “Let me talk to my parents about giving up driving,” said no one ever!

Freewheeling After Sixty is written with two readers in mind. First, the age forty-something adult child with seventy-year-old parents. Second, the sixty-year-old eager to stay independent in retirement.

 

One Message for Two Readers

For the adult child, this book gives insight into the subtle changes of aging. Information on resources and a system to develop a transportation strategy for a family member. In addition, this reader will benefit from learning how they can improve their community and lifestyle choices.

On the other hand, the book speaks to thoughtful adults who wants to maintain their independence in older age.  For this reader, the book introduces the concept of interdependence and the importance of connection. In addition, the reader will better understand the transportation infrastructure.

Changing the Conversation

Currently, many books take a paternalistic attitude toward older drivers. That voice no longer connects to older adults and their families. You see now we have a population of drivers who may have over seven decades of experience behind the wheel. They travel, they take Zumba classes, they date, and they also drive. Those now entering older age want to retain their freedom and mobility.

In Freewheeling after Sixty, both groups of readers learn the value and place community offers in their quality of life. With a community comes a built-in structure eliminating the keys talk. Freewheeling is a real solution for an emotional conversation that all participants dread. Click HERE for a book preview.

 

A  Resource for Families and Older Drivers

Each chapter of the book offers readers details and information on driving and senior transportation resources. Chapter titles include:

What you must know about driving

Alternative Transportation Resources

The Future of Communities and Transportation

In addition, Freewheeling After Sixty engages readers online and offers additional resources. Individuals who register the book have access to planners, templates, and an online private Facebook Group.

 

More than a Book

Freewheeling after Sixty is also part of a movement focused on changing the stereotypes of aging through connections. The goal of the Freewheeling Movement is to engage 40,000 older drivers by 2020 in their transportation options. The aim of this bold goal is to organically influence the generations connected to these drivers. Through raising, awareness, communities can build transportation that serves all its residents at any age.

About the Author

JUDI BONILLACurrently, Judi Bonilla is the Director of Program Innovation at Advocates For Aging. She is the first gerontologist to speak at South by Southwest (SXSW). Judi has also spoken at the American Society Aging and Certified Senior Advisors conferences. She served as a fellow for Hispanics in Philanthropy and Senior Service America. Judi is the author of Freewheeling After Sixty, a book for older drivers. In addition, the City of San Diego honored her for launching Older Driver Safety Awareness Week.

 

Judi Bonilla
Aging Expert | Social Entrepreneur
619.742.3368 | Twitter: @judibonilla | www.judibonilla.com

Hold That Line! Make a Touchdown with Gerunds!

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

Understand Gerunds and Possessive Pronouns

Pompoms

The Grammar Patrol tends to “Keep Calm and Carry On” in the face of grammar blips. But there’s one common error, primarily spoken, that does make our antennae shiver. It involves gerunds and possessive pronouns.

What’s a gerund? When an ing form of a verb has the job of a noun, it’s called a gerund.

          Sierra, a novice skier, focused on snowplowing.

A noun names a person, place, or thing. What “thing” did Sierra focus on? Snowplowing.

 

The Grammar Patrol’s Trick

Here’s the trick, your December grammar gift from us to you: Use a possessive pronoun before a gerund.

In preparation for this column, we’ve been collecting evidence as to how rampant this error is. (We readily admit—we’re losing ground on this one.)

Take a long look at these examples from our sampling, for instance. Do they ring oddly to your ear?

I appreciate you bringing this up.

Thanks for making the time for me saying a few words.

We’re fine with you going over the case.

Did you hear about them moving?

I appreciate you calling me back.

We’re fine with you going over the case

It’s only because of him leaving that he gets the bowling prize.

We appreciate you being on the show.

It’s nothing to do with you not having time to see me.

Each of these sentences uses an objective pronoun with the gerund: me, you, her, him, us, and them. (Refresher: Objective pronouns are the objects of verbs or prepositions.) For these sample gerund sentences, all you need to do is replace those objective pronouns with possessive ones: my, your, hers, his, our, their. (Heads up, screenwriters, actors, reporters, and pundits—are you with us here?)

 

Corrected Sentences

Here are the sentences with their tiny corrections—just changing one word. First, eyeball these new versions. Then read them aloud to anchor the idea of ing verb forms being preceded by a possessive pronoun.

I appreciate your bringing this up.

Thanks for making the time for my saying a few words.

We’re fine with your going over the case.

Did you hear about their moving?

I appreciate your calling me back.

We’re fine with your going over the case

It’s only because of his leaving that he gets the bowling prize.

We appreciate your being on the show.

It’s nothing to do with your not having time to see me.

We urge you to shake your cheerleading pom-poms and chant along with us, “Ya gotta hold that line! Ya gotta hold that line! Gerunds plus possessives! They’re just fine.”

 

Great Gifts for Writers

Need a grammar refresher that won’t boggle your brain? Our lighthearted Nitty-Gritty Grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar, feature right/wrong/why examples, ticker tapes with common errors, and lots of grammar-related cartoons that we used when teaching one-day grammar refreshers through San Diego State Extension. We’re delighted that these humorous grammar books have stayed in print for more than fifteen years and, between the two, have now sold close to 150,000 copies.

Keep those grammar pet peeves, funny signs, and questions coming. See you in the new year for another pop quiz.

© Anton Starikov | Dreamstime.com – Pom poms

Punctuation: Music to Our Ears

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

 

What do music and grammar have in common? More than you think. Both genres contain codes and signs for the musician or reader to follow.

Musical Notes

In a musical work, a double line with two dots before or after it means “repeat.” A curved line over a dot signals, “hold this note longer.” A rest sign means pause and for a singer, that’s a good time to take a breath. Without observing a repeat sign, half the orchestra might repeat a passage, and the other half might simply plow forward. Cacophony! If a singer misses a rest, her entrance will be early, plus she might collapse from lack of breath.

Likewise in writing, punctuation marks guide the reader, despite recent rumors of punctuation’s demise. (Thank the shorthand of emails, texting, and tweeting!) The Grammar Patrol thinks punctuation marks add clarity. For us, in writing and reading, punctuation is a code to help readers ride smoothly through the written word.

Let’s review common marks and some of their vagaries.

One way to do this is to think of punctuation marks as traffic signals:

.   Period = Stop Sign

“Come to a full stop. No sliding through.”

(One space after a period)

 

,  Comma = Flashing Yellow Light

Slow down. Look left and right. Then continue.

• Tip: Confuse a comma with a period and presto! Run-on sentence!

• Tip: In the U.S., periods and commas always go inside quotation marks.

(Not so in England.)

 

 ;  Semi-Colon=Flashing Red Light

Stop briefly; forge ahead.

(Often used when two sentences relate to each other, or for a list of items with interior commas)

 

:  Colon = Arrow or Road Sign

“Listen up! What follows explains, adds information, or a list.”

• Tip: Colons and semi-colons always go outside quotation marks

 

• Tip: Exclamation marks ( ! ), question marks ( ? ) , and dashes ( — )can be inside or outside depending on the meaning of the sentence.

(More on this later. Read on.)

 

Pop Quiz!

(Answers below. No peeking.)

Can you spot the punctuation bloopers in these sentences?

 

1. The feisty jockey’s nickname is “Spitfire”.

 

2. Florists like romance, it’s their business.

 

3. The whirlwind tour includes London, England, Mont Saint Michel and Paris, France, and Frankfurt, Germany.

 

4. Political campaigns always include the same elements, flag waving, baby smooching, and lofty speeches.

 

5. Amy’s airy office, “the treehouse”, was her refuge.

 

Recent bloopers spotted by the Grammar Patrol:

“Food and wine lends itself to adjectives, to metaphors.”

“You may not realize that myself and my sisters . . . ”

 

So remember, whether you’re singing, playing an instrument, writing, or reading, look for those all-important codes, musical or grammatical.  Those are the traffic signals to guide you on your adventure. For more on all things grammatical, consult our two lighthearted grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar.

 

Attention, Grammar Bargain Hunters!

Need more specifics on punctuation or other grammar conundrums? We’re excited that Ten Speed/Random House is holding a big promotion on our Nitty-Gritty Grammar through BookBub and other retailers (At Kindle:  http://amzn.to/2bTAvhU). You can get this zany grammar guide—loaded with cartoons, tips, and blooper pitfalls—for just $1.99 from August 28–September 11. What a bargain. Order ahead for birthdays, holiday gifts, work promotions, graduation, and quick reference for school, home school, and office. Tell your grammar-challenged pals!

Remember to send us bloopers you hear or see. We love hearing from you.

 

(Answers to Pop Quiz: 1. “Spitfire.” 2. romance; it’s 3. England; France; 4. Same elements: 5. “the treehouse,”)

Mother Jones: Mother to America’s Workers

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Josephson loves to dig into the past. People’s lives, especially that of people who have made a difference. Today she reflects on the life and accomplishments of Mary Harris Jones that she researched for her updated ebook: Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights. Her award-winning biographies and history books include both nonfiction and fiction for children. She has also written for adults.

 

MotherJones Cover Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, as well as those who mother and mentor young people—aunts, grandmothers, friends, teachers, youth leaders, coaches! One Mother’s Day, my daughter gave me a paperback book, Important Women of the Twentieth Century. It held a section on Mother Jones, a.k.a. Mary Harris Jones, which inspired me to write one of my most intriguing biographies for young people. For the next several months, Mother Jones figuratively stomped around my office in her long black dress, hat, and boots, looking over my shoulder to make sure I captured her spirit and tenacity.

Mary Harris Jones’s path in her early life was seared by tragedy. In Memphis, Tennessee, after the Civil War ended, she watched helplessly as her husband and four children all died of yellow fever. Out of the ashes of those sorrows, a fierce compassion for the downtrodden grew.

 

Workers Became Her Family

Mary took up the cause of American workers, adopting them as her family. Workers—adults and many children—who toiled away in coal mines, textile mills, and other industries, often labored for long hours under dangerous conditions for wages that barely sustained them. She hiked up mountains just so she could talk with miners. She spoke to crowds using peppery language and a folksy tone, “Listen boys . . . let me tell you.” “I reside wherever there is a good fight against wrong—all over the country. . . . Wherever the workers are fighting the robbers, I go there.” Mary Harris Jones became known as simply Mother Jones.

She stood on picket lines with mothers, whose young boys toiled twelve hours a day underground as mule tenders or breaker boys. Of young girls working in cotton mills, she said, “I’ve got stock in these little children.” In the March of the Mill Children, she took three hundred men, women, and children to speak with then-president Teddy Roosevelt and to plead the case against child workers. Unintimidated by railroad barons, mine and mill owners, governors, even presidents, Mother Jones had a simple message—rights for workers.

For sixty years, Mother Jones’s mission took her from the poorest coal miner’s shack to the halls of Congress, from the ragged children in the textile mills to bottle washers in Milwaukee breweries.

 

Activist to the End

Toward the end of her life, she received a telegram: “MOTHER THERE IS A STRIKE AT THE SILK MILLS HERE   WILL YOU COME AT ONCE   I KNOW YOU CAN DO LOTS OF GOOD   COME IF POSSIBLE    FROM A MINER.”

One of her last wishes was that she could “live another hundred years in order to fight to the end that there would be no more machine guns and no more sobbing of little children.” Her feisty, unyielding determination makes her one of American labor’s most unforgettable champions.

Mother Jones—her indomitable spirit, stirring words, and bold actions— is a role model for young people to emulate today. Filled with thought-provoking photographs, my ebook, Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights, is appropriate for readers from sixth grade on up, but it also holds inspiration for adults as well.  Contact me at www.judithjosephson.com.

Jesse Owens: Another Look at an Olympic Champion

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Josephson loves to dig into the past. People’s lives, especially that of track and field star Jesse Owens, fascinate her. Today she reflects on his life and accomplishments that she researched for her updated ebook: Jesse Owens: Legendary Gold Medal Olympian. Her award-winning biographies and history books include both nonfiction and fiction for children. She has also written for adults.

 

Looking Back at the 1936 Olympics

Jesse OwensEighty years have passed since Jesse Owen’s triumph in the 1936 Olympics. The first African American to win four gold medals, he stunned German dictator, Adolph Hitler, who had hoped to prove his racist theory of Aryan supremacy. NBC Sports recently aired “More Than Gold,” a documentary drawing heavily on film segments and firsthand accounts. The movie Race (view movie trailer: Race, Trailer) about Owens makes a powerful statement. Owens’s  accomplishments have been featured on the nightly news and in Parade Magazine (“Remembering Jesse Owens”). In 2013, PBS’s American Experience Series profiled Jesse Owens. Throughout, Jesse’s three daughters have contributed insights and anecdotes about their famous father.

Eight decades later, why all the hoopla honoring this athlete? Here’s why. Jesse Owens was so much more than a stellar athlete; he was an American patriot, a role model and advocate for young people, a humanitarian, devoted husband and father, and a well-respected gentleman in spite of the racism of the era.

Born in 1918, Jesse Owens had been training for this day ever since junior high school, when he started breaking records for his age.  In college at Ohio State University, at a 1935 track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan,  he broke four world records in forty-five minutes. Ohio State was where Jesse encountered young coach and former Olympic hopeful Larry Snyder, who became a close friend and mentor and part of Owens’s family. Talented athletes always benefit from having mentors like Snyder and Jesse’s junior high coach Charles Riley.

For more than a century, the Olympic games have been the greatest athletic competition in the world, an event where years of training culminate in the best of the best. But the Olympics in which Owens excelled differed greatly from modern Olympics. Today’s athletes communicate electronically, wear top-of-the-line equipment, and can expect lucrative endorsements when they excel. Jesse Owens and his fellow athletes gathered around a Victrola to listen to music, wrote real letters, and sent telegrams to their families. Owens arrived with only one pair of running shoes. Coach Snyder, worried that the cinder tracks would soon destroy those shoes, went out and bought Jesse Owens a second pair.

Jesse Owens had class. When he won the gold medal in the 100-meter race, he thanked his Olympic hosts, saying that Berlin was “a beautiful place, a beautiful city.  The competition was grand.  But I was very glad to come out on top.”  Proudly, he wore the winner’s laurel wreath and saluted his flag. His winning four gold medals surprised the world and infuriated Hitler, who called Owens and other African American teammates America’s “black legions.” Hitler’s close associate declared Jesse and his teammates unfit to compete with “human” athletes, akin to allowing a gazelle or a deer on the team.

 

A Hero Comes Home

Jesse Owens returned home to an America with segregation and Jim Crow laws still in effect. Despite the ticker tape parades and speaking invitations he received, job offers never materialized. Even when a reception was given in his honor, he and his wife had to ride the service elevator to attend.

The Olympic motto, which means “faster, higher, stronger,” doesn’t include the word “winning.” The famed Olympic five intertwined rings aren’t gold. Yet Jesse Owens embodied that motto and he did win gold medals.  At the Olympics and in his life, he succeeded in spite of the racism of his day, poverty, and other obstacles.  He met these challenges with strength, perseverance, humility, and grace. A man of determination and courage, he rose above the bigotry of the era to become a consummate athlete, humanitarian, friend of youth, and ambassador of sports.

Bravo and well done, Jesse Owens! Kudos to your beloved family, who have honored your legacy in charitable works through the Jesse Owens Foundation at Jesse Owens Memorial Park and museum in Alabama.

 

Read More about Jesse Owens

To read more about track and field hero Jesse Owens, check out Josephson’s newly revised and republished ebook biography of him, Jesse Owens: Legendary Gold Medal Olympian, from eFrog Press.

 

Why does grammar matter to authors?

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

The Grammar Patrol writes monthly blog posts here about grammatical issues for writers. To kick off 2016, eFrog Press interviews them about their obsession!

 

You both seem to love grammar. When did you each first realize it was both intriguing and important?

J: I had wonderful teachers, Mrs. McManus in 8th grade and Mr. Utech in 11th grade, who really focused on the structure of language, a.k.a. grammar. I think that’s when I became a grammar geek. When we diagrammed, I loved taking sentences apart.

E: I, too, remember specific teachers. Miss Hoezel caught on in my 8th grade Honors English that I was guessing on possessive apostrophes and taught me the arrow method that Judith and I have taught to hundreds of students. And Miss Clark, 9th, had us diagram sentences all year. It may be a lost art now, and I might not be able to diagram more than a simple sentence—but that structure is parked in my brain.

 

Word processors have very good spell checkers and grammar checkers, so why should writers worry about grammar?

J: Since writing involves tons of revision, one has to understand the structure of language in order to come up with better ways to say things.  It’s crucial. Alert: Those electronic grammar and spelling checkers don’t spot everything. For example, they won’t distinguish between correct use of homophones (one/won, sleight/slight, role/roll, pore/pour).)

E: Computer checkers may catch simple errors, but we want to know the why, not just the what. And writers use complex writing to get across plots, emotions, and character traits. Humans have the brains to comprehend complexity. Computers don’t. Sussing out meaning from gorgeous long paragraphs may prove beyond their ken. And we sometimes disagree with the grammar checker’s recommendations. Many make the three periods in ellipses single-spaced (…—called a glyph), but they’re supposed to have a space on each side ( . . . ), as the Chicago Manual of Style recommends.

 

Once an agent sells a manuscript, an editor from the publishing house will clean up the grammar. Why do very creative writers need to pay attention to something as mundane as grammar rules?

J: Sadly, grammatical skills of publishing house editors vary widely. A writer’s best writing tool is his/her own knowledge and care.

E: When an editor receives a manuscript riddled with spelling and grammar bloopers, it automatically gets rejected, particularly in today’s competitive publishing scene. Even if the writing is strong and the ideas unique, it’s a no-go. As Lily Tomlin would say, “And that’s the truth.”

…Continue Reading

What to Consider When Writing a Series: Part 1

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

L.C. Scott founded eFrog Press in 2011. She has a B.A. in English from UC Berkeley, an M.A. in Education from Stanford, and a doctorate in educational leadership from UC San Diego. During her freelance writing career she wrote dozens of magazine feature stories, chapters for textbooks, study guides for educations films and newsletters. For many years she created websites for small businesses and children’s authors. She has taught at the high school and university levels. Hershey: A Second Chance is her chapter book for struggling readers about a mischievous rescue Doberman and a young boy who loves him. Today she shares Part 1 of lessons learned when creating a book series.


Planning is Key

Some additional planning is needed when you are writing a series. At eFrog Press we have worked on series for children and for adults. Today we will share how authors came up with their series titles, series logos, and cover design.

Series Title is a Serious Decision

Creating the title of a series is a great opportunity to use key words to help readers find your books. Many authors do not start to make a profit until the second or even third book in their series is published.

The first series we worked on in 2011 was a collection of biographies for young readers about people who have made a difference in the world. We considered calling the series “Lives of Famous People” but these biographies were about people who were more than just famous—they had made an impact. People like Barbara McClintock, a geneticist and the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize on her own, were featured. And Jesse Owens whose impact is still being felt and whose life will be featured in a new movie RACE starring Stephan James, Jeremy Irons, Jason Sudeikis and directed by Stephen Hopkins, in theaters February 19, 2016.

So the authors of the different titles in this series chose A Spotlight Biography because these well researched books focused a light on interesting people who had left their mark. The next decision was how the series title would appear on each book cover. We wanted to use some kind of spotlight.

Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist   Barbara McClintock

Our first version is the blue cover with a spotlight coming down from the top. But then one of our cover designers came up with a beautiful modern cover with the spotlight over the top right corner. Now we have a nice template for all future titles in the series and the current titles look related.

Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist cover  MotherJonesCover1  EastmanCover_200wide

Learn more about other books in A Spotlight Biography series for young readers.

 

Planning a New Historical Fiction Series

When we began working with retired professor and academic research librarian Richard Fitchen, he was planning a five-book fiction series about the history of the United States. He wanted a series title that reflected both the depth and breadth of these stories. After much thought, he named his series An American Saga. He loves history and political science and wanted to use story to engage readers and educate them at the same time.

The series title was actually easier to create than the series logo. The designer came up with many versions but all had an American flag. Since the books spanned centuries, the American flag changed in appearance—more stars and stripes over time. The author wanted a flag to span our country’s history, so he requested a furled flag so the number of stars was less clear.

An American Saga Series Logo

…Continue Reading

Pop Grammar Quiz for Writers

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

Take Your Seats, Class! 2015 Pop Quiz!

Students at computer desks

The year’s almost over . . . time to show your grammar gusto.

Take this pop quiz, a quick review of our 2015 topics and examples from the “ticker tapes” found at the bottom of each page in our Nitty-Gritty Grammar guides. With you’re/your A+ score, you can become the Grammar Patrol quizmaster with friends, family, colleagues, or students.

 

1. This is _________: “Ew! This cooking oil is as smelly as old socks.”

A. a metaphor

B. a simile

 

2. _________ disturbing to find this error in our favorite newspaper.

A. Its

B. It’s

 

3. Hugh wished his telephone had _________

A. rung

B. rang

 

4.  Cory and _________ use gargoyles for garden gnomes.

A.  I

B.  me

 

5.  Please turn in the reports to Stan or_________

A.  myself

B.  me

 

6. Our dog wagged _________ tail when served Greenies tooth chews.

A. Its

B. It’s

 

7.  Are stocks more _________ than Blackjack?

A.  risky

B.  riskier

 

8.  Thor _________ care less about Drusilda’s hairdo.

A.  couldn’t

B.  could

 

9. _________ Pekingese terrifies my Rottweiler.

A.  Your

B.  You’re

 

10. The verdict was announced by the jury.

A. The verb is active.

B. The verb is passive.

 

How to Sign Your Holiday Cards

Before you discover how you did, may we remind you about signing your holiday cards?

Not . . .

Best from the Fine’s and Josephson’s

or

Best from the Fines’ and Josephsons’

 

Use this:

Best from the Fines and Josephsons

 

 Answers

Okay—the answers. Check your own grammar gusto score!

1.  B

2.  B

3.  A

4.  A

5.  B

6.  A

7.  A

8.  A

9.  A

10.  B

 

Fun Grammar Books—Really!

Need a perfect gift for an author friend? Check our zany Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar guides (Random House), loaded with cartoons, tips, and blooper pitfalls. And send us bloopers you hear or see. As always, we love hearing from you. Happy Holidays from the Grammar Patrol!

Add Power to Your Writing: Understand passive and active verbs

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

Active or Passive Verbs? (Go-getters or Couch Potatoes?)

Active Woman Walking Vigorously

On an “active” day, you might walk five miles and complete your “To Do” list by noon. On a more “passive” day, you might meditate in the morning, spend the afternoon reading, and settle in for a good movie in the evening. Both kinds of days can be worthy and satisfying.

Lazy Guy Couch Potato

But in writing, and with verbs in particular, the “active” voice usually packs a bigger punch than the “passive” voice. These terms may seem confusing. We met some folks in our grammar refresher classes who equated “passive” with “past tense.” That’s not the case.

 

Active Voice/Passive Voice

So what’s the deal with active and passive verbs?

In the active voice, the person or thing doing the action is in charge. The reader is instantly drawn to the subject of the sentence.

Active:

The jury announced its verdict.

The jury is front and center.

 

In the passive voice, the subject receives the action or is acted upon.

Passive:

The verdict was announced by the jury.

Note how the verdict has taken the spotlight.

 

Newspaper headlines use the active voice, not only for its immediacy, but because it’s a shorter form.

Active:

American Pharaoh wins 2015 Triple Crown

Passive:

The 2015 Triple Crown was won by American Pharaoh

Pretty clunky, huh? A headline like this one is unlikely.

 

Passive Tips: To Be Verbs, Key Prepositions

Be on the lookout for the helping verbs was, were, and will be in the passive voice. They can often signal the  passive voice when paired with prepositions that follow the verb, like by, for, and to.

Check out these examples of the passive that combine helping verbs with prepositions:

The walleye was caught by Herb.

     was cleaned by     will be faxed to     were polished for     were created to

 

Which Voice to Use?

In most kinds of writing, the active voice adds punch and power to sentences. It’s more clear, direct, and takes fewer words than the passive voice.

When you work your “active voice” magic on the sentence above, you get this:

Herb caught the walleye.

Occasional use of the passive is fine.

A league playoff game is scheduled for Sunday.

In scientific or formal writing, using the passive voice is more common:

“Half the test subjects were given the medication and half a placebo.”

(May robust health help the placebo subjects!)

Sometimes, you’ll use the passive voice to put the emphasis on the most important idea in the sentence. During a root canal procedure, the comfort of the patient may be the most important idea:

The patient was given laughing gas by Dr. Paine.

If you were to run Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” through your grammar checker, it would flag many uses of the passive. Use common sense—we wouldn’t touch a single comma, let alone a verb, of Mr. Lincoln’s moving words.

 

TIP: Avoid mixing the active voice with the passive voice in the same sentence or paragraph.

 

Bipsy dimmed the lights as the wine was poured.

[active]                                           [passive]

 

Just for fun, highlight all the verbs in a piece of writing you’re currently working on. What do you find? Active voice or passive voice?

Please Share

For more on the active and passive voice, check our zany Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar guides (Random House). And send us bloopers you hear or see. We love hearing from you.

Heads up! Pop Quiz coming soon!

New Biography of Mother Jones: Feisty Fighter for Workers’ Rights

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Pinkerton Josephson has taught at various grade levels, and has written books for children—biographies, picture books, and childhood history books—and co-written two zany grammar guides for adults. She believes that behind every person and every relationship, there lies a story. Capturing the essence of that story in the space and time it took place makes writing fascinating. Visit her website for more information.

 

MotherJonesCover1As I was writing my biography of Mary Harris Jones, a.k.a. Mother Jones, I visualized her stomping around my office in her long black dress, hat, and boots, looking over my shoulder to make sure I captured her spirit and tenacity. Every once in a while, her words would hover in the air: “Get it right. I’m not a humanitarian. I’m a hell raiser.” “I was born in revolution.” “I reside wherever there is a good fight against wrong—all over the country. . . . Wherever the workers are fighting the robbers, I go there.” “Women can do so much if they only realize their power. . . . Nobody wants a lady. They want women.”

Childhood in Ireland

As a child in Ireland in the 1830s, Mary witnessed deadly clashes between British soldiers and peasant farmers, including members of her own family. After immigrating to the United States, she did well in school, becoming the first in her family to graduate from high school. Along the way, she acquired skills that would serve her well— teaching, dressmaking, giving speeches, and debating.

Family Tragedy

But Mary’s path in life was not to be an easy one. In Memphis, Tennessee, after the Civil War ended, she watched helplessly as her ironworker husband and four children all died of yellow fever. Out of the ashes of those sorrows, a fierce compassion for the downtrodden grew.

Champion for Workers’ Rights

Figure17b

In narrow tunnels alongside underground ribbons of coal, boys tended the mules that pulled coal carts.

Mary took up the cause of American workers, adopting them as her family. Workers—adults and many children—who toiled away in coal mines, textile mills, and other industries, often labored for long hours under dangerous conditions for wages that could barely sustain them. She hiked up mountains wearing hip boots and her trademark long, black dresses, just so she could talk with miners. She spoke to crowds using peppery language and a folksy tone, “Listen boys . . . let me tell you.” She stood on picket lines with mothers, whose young boys toiled twelve hours a day underground as mule tenders or breaker boys. Of young girls working in cotton mills, she said, “I’ve got stock in these little children.” In the March of the Mill Children, she took three hundred men, women, and children to speak with then-president Teddy Roosevelt and to plead the case against child workers.

Figure35_med

“I’ve got stock in these little children,” Mother Jones said of young mill workers like these girls.

Unintimidated by railroad barons, mine and mill owners, governors, even presidents of the United States, she brought a simple message to all, rights for workers.  From that moment on, Mary Harris Jones became known, beloved, and called, simply Mother Jones.

For sixty years, Mother Jones crisscrossed the nation, urging men, women, and child workers to fight for their rights through labor unions. Her mission took her from the poorest coal miner’s shack to the halls of Congress, from the ragged children in the textile mills all the way to presidents of the United States.

A Long Life

Mother Jones always went “wherever the fight was the fiercest.” One of her last wishes was that she could “live another hundred years in order to fight to the end that there would be no more machine guns and no more sobbing of little children.” Mother Jones’s feisty and unyielding determination make her one of American labor’s most unforgettable champions.

Mother Jones—her indomitable spirit, stirring words, and bold actions— is a role model for young people to emulate today. Filled with thought-provoking photographs, this biography is appropriate for readers from sixth grade on up, but it also holds inspiration for adults as well.

Note: Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights is part of A Spotlight Biography series for young people and is available as an ebook for only $1.99 through October 31.

Writing Biography for Young People

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Edith Hope Fine

Paulsen and McClintock: So Different, So Alike

My two Spotlight Biography subjects—Barbara McClintock and Gary Paulsen—bring to mind Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to reach expertise in a field. Think Yo-Yo Ma and his cello, for example—there’s a guy for whom practice was a joy.

In her eighties, geneticist McClintock was still working twelve hours a day in her lab. And famed children’s writer Gary Paulsen says “I’m totally, viciously, obsessively committed to work, . . . I still work that way, completely, all the time. I just work.”

 

Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist

Barbara McClintockFor the McClintock biography, I visited the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, across from the Liberty Bell. Imagine the experience of heading into the archives with nothing but a pencil, pad, and piece of Kleenex! Imagine holding old family photos, awards, and honorary degrees. If all seventy feet of her records, including detailed 3 x 5 cards, were put into a single file drawer, it would be two school buses long.

Before the 1950s, scientists thought that genes had set positions on chromosomes. Working solo, McClintock studied maize (Indian corn) and made the startling discovery that genes are mobile and some actually control other genes. The press dubbed them “jumping genes.” That was huge, and just one of her major discoveries that changed the world of genetics.

At Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island, her research home for forty decades, I met with colleagues and others. Helpful geneticists checked to ensure that my simplification of her complex findings was clear and accurate for young readers. What fun digging out details like her favorite color to paint a picture of this charming genius: “She loved the color red. Red canisters, dish rack and drain board, bowls, dishes, and breadbox brightened her kitchen. Her sugar scoop and other utensils had bright red handles.”

In 1983, at eighty-one, she received a Nobel Prize, the first woman ever to receive an unshared Nobel in Physiology or Medicine.  A set of Nobel stamps came out celebrating discoveries in genetics. “As far as portraits go, I share honors with the fruit fly,” McClintock observed wryly.

This book took two years to write, but all that research paid off. One reviewer wrote, “This is what every good biography should be.”

 

Gary Paulsen: Adventurer and Author

Author Gary Paulsen works magic with words. His more than 200 books turn students into eager readers. Millions of copies of Hatchet have sold. This award-winning tale of a city boy trying to survive along in the wilderness after a plane crash has been translated into more than fifteen languages.

For this biography, I read as many Paulsen books as I could get my hands on. The tone varies widely. Some are laugh-aloud funny. Some, particularly his Civil War books, are so poignant, they bring tears. His range is wide. Picture books are beautifully illustrated by his wife Ruth Wright Paulsen. His adventure books are designed to pull readers in, to “thoughty” (my mum’s word) young adult books for which he was honored with a Margaret A. Edwards Award. His adult Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass, is an elegy to farm life—my book group gave it a ten!

From childhood on, Paulsen’s mind worked like a recorder, storing away things he saw, heard, and felt. And he remembered. Deep in his mind, he tucked away details. There were the hard parts—his rough home life with alcoholic parents, bullies who taunted him, and school troubles. There were the good parts—kind adults, amazing adventures, a growing love of nature. And dogs—a lifetime of dogs that became his friends.

Can you imagine running a dogsled solo in the wilderness for even a day? Paulsen has run the Iditarod, the grueling 1,049-mile Alaskan dogsled race two times. If he’s thrown a stick at a bear, nearly drowned in an icy pond, survived a violent Pacific storm in a twenty-two foot sailboat, been hit by a seagull while riding a Harley, broken bones, gotten lost in a snowstorm, been blown off a mountain, chased by a moose, or caught in a flash flood, Gary Paulsen has written about it, opening the doors to books and reading to millions.

Although their fields are wildly different, both McClintock and Paulsen demonstrate how taking joy in one’s work can move the world forward in remarkable ways. I’m glad to have these two books available to young readers as ebooks through eFrog Press.

So You Want to Write Romance: Hybrid authors will share their publishing journeys

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

HeraHubLogoHera Hub, a spa-inspired coworking space for entrepreneurial women, will host an Authors’ Salon featuring two Southern California romance writers discussing their paths to publishing. Through eFrog Press I have had the opportunity to meet many authors and helped select the speakers and will lead the panel discussion on writing process, publishing, and marketing.  Details: Tuesday, October 20, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in Carlsbad. Register online at http://tinyurl.com/authorsalon. Can’t attend? A follow-up blog will share their wisdom.

 

There are so many ways to get published in 2015. Jan Moran and Judith Lown have published  traditionally as well as indie. Both also write romance but Moran writes historical and contemporary fiction and Lown focuses on the Regency Period. Both know how to write a compelling tale that keeps their readers turning the pages. They will be featured speakers at the October Authors’ Salon on writing and publishing romance (see details above).

SCENT OF TRIUMPH by Jan Moran_medMoran will talk about her historical novel, Scent of Triumph (St. Martin’s Press). A very long plane trip to Paris seemed much shorter as I read the ebook edition. I began to understand so much more about the perfume industry that, of course, I had to purchase a very special new scent. I was in Paris after all! As Moran said:

“I write stylish books for smart women. My characters are often running a business, and juggling their love life and family responsibilities. Like real people, they make mistakes, but they always save themselves in a creative manner. In both my contemporary and historical novels, I write for the modern woman who wants to enjoy all life has to offer.”

Much like her characters, Moran draws on her international travel and business experiences, infusing her books with realistic details. She also writes contemporary women’s fiction (Flawless, Beauty Mark, Runway) and nonfiction books (Vintage Perfumes, Fabulous Fragrances). I enjoyed Moran’s presentation at the SDSU Writers’ Conference in San Diego and invited her to be part of the Authors’ Salon. She also presented at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) earlier this year.

Judith Lown began reading historical Regency romance during a stressful time in her life when she was a social worker helping disintegrating families. She needed to escape during her free time, and began reading historical Regencies. Lown said:

“This genre was created by Georgette Heyer and her Regencies were marked by heroines of taste and courage and heroes who could more than hold their own with ladies who knew their own minds. Heyer despised sentimentality, cowardice, and both mindless conformity on one hand, and self-indulgent non-conformity on the other.”

BostonTanglefinal10.11.2015_medIn her newest title, Boston Tangle: Regency Comes to America, Lown transports three of her English characters from previous books to Boston where they interact with the upper class and, of course, there is a love story—a tangled tale. Lown’s heroine Drusilla Fortesque is a lady who knows her own mind and Lown laces her writing with wry wit and avoids sappiness. Heyer would be proud.

Judith Lown has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and her understanding of family systems theory helps her develop rich, character-driven plots. She is a dog lover and an active volunteer for the Greyhound Adoption Center which has inspired her to include a canine character in each of her novels.

During the panel discussion, authors will share their writing process (very different), their publishing paths, and advice to aspiring authors. If you do not live in San Diego County and cannot attend this stimulating evening (did I mention wine and dessert?), watch for a follow-up blog where I will share all their practical advice!

How to Plan a Book Launch Party: Tips for Authors

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Lynda Pfleuger, authorLynda Pflueger has written nine biographies for children. Her books have been favorably reviewed by Kirkus, School and Library Journal, and Booklist. George Eastman: Bringing Photography to the People is the most recent title in A Spotlight Biography series and is now available in both paperback and ebook format. Learn more about her at LyndaPflueger.com

 LyndaBookLaunchcropped

LyndaEastmanCoverBoardWhat fun! I loved talking about one of my favorite people, George Eastman, the founder of Kodak.

The Book Launch Party for my newly released biography—George Eastman: Bringing Photography to the People—started with a slice of his favorite lemon meringue pie.  Eastman never seemed to get enough of it. He often prepared it himself and always ate at least two big slices.

Then I shared some interesting tidbits about Eastman:

  • His goal for his company was to be “the largest manufacturer of photographic materials in the world, or go to pot.”
  • He created his company’s brand name Kodak.
  • His company’s success was based on his four business practices:  mass production of goods at a low cost, international distribution of goods, extensive advertising, and excellent customer service.
  • He donated the majority of his wealth to educational institutions and other charities before his death because he felt that men who left their money to be distributed by others were “pie-faced-mutts.”

EastmanDisplayTableI knew his adventures in Africa would appeal to young people (grades 5 and up), my target reading audience. In 1926, a year after he retired from Eastman Kodak, Eastman packed his bags and set out for Africa. He stayed with Osa and Martin Johnson, two wild life photographers at their campsite in the Kedong Valley near Nairobi. His cabin was built alongside an elephant trail and several times a day, the large animals passed by, giving Eastman an opportunity to photograph them. I read a passage that showed what an interesting person Eastman was.

After my talk, I handed out bookmarks and sold and signed books.

Tips from eFrog Press

Book Launches will vary based on the genre, the location, and the personality of the author. Here are some key elements to consider no matter what kind of book you are launching!

  • Get the word out early through social media, organizations you belong to, and the press.
  • Have food and drink—even better if it relates to the book.
  • Allow time for mingling and try to connect with everyone before speaking.
  • Keep your talk short, focused, and interesting. Rehearse and time your presentation.
  • Read from your book. Nothing sells a book better than good writing. Don’t just talk about your book—read from it!
  • Set up a display table with copies of all your books and related items. Lynda Pflueger displayed antique Kodak cameras (see photo above). She also displayed a poster-sized version of her cover.
  • Do a giveaway or drawing for your book and related items.
  • Be prepared to sell (have change, receipts, credit card processor, and maybe a helper) and sign (have a great pen) your books.
  • If the group is small enough, follow up with a thank you email. Lynda Pflueger included Eastman’s yummy recipe for lemon meringue pie.

For more details, read related posts:

Your First Book Signing: What Every Author Needs to Know

How to Give a Bookstore Reading in Nine Easy Steps

Preparing for Your First School Visit

Please Share Your Book Launch Experiences

A Spotlight Biography Series: Role Models to Inspire Young People

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

When LC Scott launched eFrog Press in 2011, she began by experimenting on a variety of titles including a seriesA Spotlight Biography series. Since then three authors have worked with eFrog Press to update and publish their carefully researched biographies for young people, grades five and up. There is an increasing demand for well written juvenile nonfiction, so the Spotlight Biography authors are planning a virtual launch of their series during the month of October. Stay tuned for details.

 

Founder of Kodak, George Eastman, revolutionized the field of photography by making it accessible to everyone.

We love to work on series here at eFrog Press, and I will be blogging soon about things to consider when writing and publishing a series. As with our other eFrog Press titles, our series titles are not limited to one genre but include speculative fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Regency romance, and juvenile biography. Today I will focus on A Spotlight Biography series. The authors will be doing a virtual launch of their series in the next month starting with a bricks-and-mortar book launch tonight for the newest title, George Eastman: Bringing Photography to the People, complete with Eastman’s favorite lemon meringue pie and vintage Kodak cameras. George Eastman is the first spotlight title to be released in both paperback and ebook formats.

SB_Barbara-McClintock_Final_200wAll these biographies have been previously published as print books, many in the 1990s, and the authors retained the ebook rights. They were excited to update these titles, many out of print, and tap into the power of the Internet. Each book has a section titled “Digging Deeper” where authors link to a few selected sites. For our very first title, Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist, veteran author Edith Hope Fine was thrilled to discover a video of Barbara McClintock receiving the Nobel Prize from the King of Sweden! Talk about a subject coming to life! Rich content like this was praised by the Styling Librarian, Debbie Alvarez, in her blog last week about Lynda Pflueger’s new George Eastman biography:

There are new opportunities for learning with non-fiction texts that I adore lately: the back matter of the book. I was thrilled to find an area called “Digging Deeper” which tells you about websites to explore further and videos to watch about Eastman.

Mother Jones lost her entire family in a yellow fever epidemic, yet became a fierce fighter for workers’ rights, caring especially for the plight of children as young as four working.

Covers are critical in identifying series. With a skillful, creative designer, covers can signal that titles are related without looking redundant. We went through many incarnations including a dangling spotlight before coming up with the simple but elegant design we now use. There is just a hint of a spotlight in the top right corner highlighting that the title is A Spotlight Biography. In October, Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights by Judith Josephson will be released. Fierce is almost not strong enough to describe this remarkable, and little known today, woman!

Spotlight biographies give young readers role models—people to emulate and admire. The subjects come from all walks of life—sports, science, art, writing, history, business, art, and even activism. When students read stories about the lives of real people, a spark of hope ignites and the future calls. In the Spotlight’s bright beam, the subjects of biography inspire.

Upcoming Spotlight Posts

October 6: Lynda Pflueger on Planning George Eastman Book Launch

October 15: Judith Josephson on Mother Jones Ebook Release

October 20: Edith Hope Fine on Biographies of Gary Paulsen & Barbara McClintock

And Join the Blog Tour and Book Giveaway for launch of George Eastman biography.

EastmanBlogTour2

 

 

 

 

 


So You Want to Write for Children . . .

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

Edith Hope FineOne of our favorite books we have worked on is Jump, Froggies! Writing Children’s Books: 89+ Beginners’ Tips by Edith Hope Fine. We asked her to blog about her book (available in print and as an ebook) because it is a treasure trove for new authors. Her years of experience in a variety of genres are shared generously so newbies can learn from a veteran. Edith Hope Fine is an award-winning children’s writer with eighteen books. She runs the published members’ group of the San Diego chapter of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), a non-profit organization that offers support to beginners and pros alike.

 

 

Jump, Froggies! CoverHow many times while reading to kids have you thought, “I could do this—I could write a children’s book”? If you love playing with words, still relish memories of books from childhood, read widely, and are open to hard work, you could be right.

Do you know the joke about the frogs? Five froggies sit on a log. One decides to jump. How many are left on the log? Five, because deciding isn’t doing.

It’s one thing to think about writing articles, stories, or books for children and quite another to do it. Accumulating the knowledge and skills you’ll need is a process.

You do need to know today’s books. If you’re aiming for the young adult (YA) market, read in that genre. Study the riveting The Maze Runner to discover how author James Dashner built a unique, surprising world where teens must unlock a secret, but the rules change every day. Tune into today’s important thrust toward diverse books so that all young readers can find themselves in books. (Check out the “We Need Diverse Books” website—the front page says it all: http://weneeddiversebooks.org/  and #weneeddiversebooks.)

Where to Start?

If you find figuring out where to start seems dizzying, take a look at my new Jump, Froggies! Writing Children’s Books: 89+ Beginners’ Tips (eBook or paperback) to take you on a step-by-step journey through the world of children’s publishing.

Here’s a quick dip into the Table of Contents—just six of the many topics covered:

• Learn from What You Read

• Your Space, Your Schedule, Your Tools

• Quick Tips: Honing Your Skills

• Revision

• THE Call—“We want your book!”

• To Market, To Market . . .

Three Beginners’ Tips: Contests, Digging In, No Art!

First, hone and polish your work, then enter contests. Lee & Low Books, known for its award-winning multicultural books, nurtures new writers. Writers of color should check out their New Voices Award and New Visions Award. (The deadline is Sept. 30 for the former, Oct. 31 for the latter.)

Second, read, read, read.  Dig into the sorts of books you want to write—nonfiction? middle grade mystery? dark YA (young adult)? Study what draws you in. Check out specifics such as structure, characters, tension, foreshadowing.

Third, if you’re goal is to write a picture book, don’t send art—that’s not your job. Seriously.

Persist

You may try your hand at picture books (easier said than done) or focus on middle school humor. You may, like me, hop across age levels and try your hand at both fiction and nonfiction. There’s no one right way. The trick is finding what works for you.

You’ll take classes. You’ll practice. You’ll accumulate rejections. You’ll keep on.

One thing’s certain. If you persist, your writing will become stronger and stronger and you’ll have a real chance to make that dream of holding in your hands a children’s book with your name on the cover.

Two words, my friends: Jump, froggies!

Briefly Speaking: The Long and Short of Contractions

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

Briefly Speaking: The Long and Short of Contractions

Recently posted on FaceBook:

sign_contractions

Take that, grammar police!

And in Stolen Prey, a Lucas Davenport book by John Sandford, the horrible bad guys leave a message written, you guessed it, in blood:

WERE COMING

Its (or It’s?!) enough the drive the Grammar Patrol batty!

A contraction does what it says it does—it contracts, or shortens, a word. The apostrophe steps in as a placeholder, letting readers know that a letter (or letters) is (are!) missing.

“I have” becomes “I’ve.” “Does not” becomes “doesn’t.” “Will not becomes won’t.” “You have” becomes “you’ve.”

Let’s look at some other common—but pesky—contractions, and their counterparts that don’t require apostrophes.

 

THEY’RE, THERE, THEIR

The “Theiyr’re” joke above combines three forms of the homonym they’re, there, and their—all easily addressed.

• they’re

We say they’re often in casual speech. “They are” simply becomes “they’re” in speech and in informal writing, with the apostrophe holding the fort for the space and the a of “are.”

 Tip: With apologies to Gertrude Stein, there is no “the’re” or “ther’e” there.

• there

The word there, which you’ll see hidden in “Theiyr’re,” sounds the same as the other forms, but is not a contraction.

There as an adverb tells where—“The canoe is over there” or “Let’s go there.”

There as a pronoun introduces a clause or sentence: “There is confusion . . .”

 

• their

The other word lurking within “theiyr’re” is their, an adjective—the plural possessive for “they.”

What belongs to (is possessed by) the three bears?

Their house, their chairs, their porridge, their beds.

 

WERE/WE’RE

Author John Sandford made the deliberate choice to have the villains (and they are really villainous) spell we’re wrong in WERE COMING to indicate something about them. Are they druggies? Uneducated? From another country? All will be revealed.

 

• were

The word were is the past tense of are: “Their ducks were all in a row.”

we’re

The word we’re is the contraction of “we are”: “We’re explicating apostrophe/contraction confusion.”

 

LETS/LET’S

Did you catch the contraction “let’s” above? Both let’s and lets are forms of the verb “to let.”

• let’s

The word let’s lets [ah-ha, two in a row!] you contract “let us” to the less formal “let’s” for common speech and informal writing: “Let’s have pizza.”

lets

The word lets is the third person singular form of “to let.”

As you know, these verbs end with an s in the present:

He runs.          She paints.      It pours.           Mrs. Chase lets students make decisions.

 

 

IT’S/ITS

it’s

The contraction it’s is short for “it is”: “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”

 

its

The word its indicates possession. “The dog wagged its tail.”

Tip: Possessive its never splits. (Note the its hiding in splits.)

 

A last bit of advice from the delightful Grammar Girl, author of Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing: “Unless you’re going for a breezy style, avoid unusual contractions such as ‘I’d’ve’ ” (for “I would have”).

We’re sure you’ve now got a grip on these tricky words. They’re not as hard as they’re cracked up to be.

For more on grammatical conundrums, check our zany Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar guides (Random House). And send us bloopers you hear or see. We love hearing from you.

What Books Do Writers Keep Nearby?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Writers need to have books nearby. Some are reference books and some may be for inspiration. Recently, children’s author Lynda Pflueger blogged about organizing her desk for writing. She began by clearing off unnecessary books:

Banish-boring-words1-229x300After looking over my choices, I determined I needed five reference books on my desk: The Synonym Finder by J. Rodale’s; A Pocket Style Manual by Diana Hacker; Roget’s Descriptive Word Finder by Barbara Ann Kipfer; Banish Boring Words! by Leilen Shelton; Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.

I, too, love Rodale’s The Synonym Finder. It’s an indispensable writing tool for me. When I taught high school writing, I once told a student who was stuck using the same word over and over again that there was a thesaurus behind him. Much to his embarrassment, he jumped up and looked around. He must have thought a thesaurus was a relative of the Stegosaurus!

I asked Regency romance author Judith Lown for her favorite writer’s book. Here is her contribution:

I’ve read a number of books and articles that have inspired me about being a writer. But the book that has been of most practical help to me is A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves. I have used the daily writing exercises in this book to dissolve writer’s block, organize the logistics of complicated scenes, and decide plot questions. I cannot recommend it more strongly.

Other titles I keep close at hand for reference include:

I have both print and online access to both. These books are standard references in the publishing industry and at eFrog Press all of our editors use them.

When editing or writing fiction, I frequently reference The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression. I have the ebook on my tablet so I can quickly look up an emotion and find a selection of descriptions and actions for the character experiencing that emotion. For example, if the character is curious, I have pages of options in categories for physical signals like tilting the head to the side, internal sensations like an increased pulse, mental responses like increased awareness of sensory information, cues like fidgeting or tics, and many examples in each of these categories! Such details help you bring your characters to life.

For Inspiration

MeissnerCoverSometimes you just need a beautifully written book at hand to inspire your own prose. For a while, that book was The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. The author wrote:  ”I find there is nothing more beautiful, for example, than the very basic components of language, nouns and verbs.” Her powerful use of basic language inspires me to do the same. Currently, I take my inspiration from Susan Meissner’s descriptions in Secrets of a Charmed Life. Read this introduction to her main character in the first chapter:

Isabel MacFarland steps into the room. She is a wisp of tissue-thin, weightless white hair, and fragile-looking bones. She is impeccably dressed, however, in a lavender skirt that reaches to her knees and a creamy white blouse with satin-covered buttons. Black ballet flats embrace her slender feet. A gold necklace rings her neck. Her nails are polished a shimmery pale pink and her cottony hair is swept up in the back with a comb of mother-of-pearl. She carries a fabric-wrapped rectangle, book shaped and tied with a ribbon.

Got to love “wisp of tissue-thin, weightless white hair, and fragile-looking bones” and “Black ballet flats embrace her slender feet.” So when my writing feels flat or I get stalled, I read a few pages and remember what I aspire to do.

Please Share

What titles do you keep near when writing? Are they for reference, inspiration, or both?

Do You Have Any Writing Rituals?

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Friedrick SchillerSince I founded eFrog Press almost four years ago, I have worked with dozens of authors and am always intrigued by their individual writing processes. No two authors seem to have the same process. I think writers have more rituals than major league baseball pitchers although there is less scratching and spitting involved.

My all-time favorite prewriting strategy is from German playwright Frederick Schiller. Before he would begin writing, he would open his desk drawer and take a big whiff of a rotting apple he kept there for inspiration! (I did not make this up.)

I define prewriting as anything that happens from the time you decide to write until you actually put fingers to keys or pen to paper. Some authors have a music playlist that relates in some way to the characters or setting. I know when I was writing my doctoral dissertation, I could not listen to music with lyrics. The words seemed to battle with my own writing. So I listened to Andre Segovia’s classical guitar music and just like Pavlov’s dogs, when I would start the music, I would start writing.

MeissnerCoverSusan Meissner averages a novel a year and likes to begin her session reading the last few pages from the day before—not to edit but to reconnect with her characters and where she left off. By the way, if you have missed her last two novels, A Fall of Marigolds and Secrets of a Charmed Life, I highly recommend them. Her beautiful language and fully developed characters will sweep you away to another place and time.

 

Place

Think about where you write. Some authors need a clear space without interruptions while others thrive typing away at a busy coffee shop. Children’s author Lynda Pflueger blogged recently about setting up her writing cove just the way she wanted it. Here is how she got started:

First, I tackled my desktop and I removed everything that did not pertain to my writing. I often had to get up and search for a pen or pencil. So, I stocked up and filled an old coffee mug with a dozen pens and pencils.  I added a small note pad, ruler and highlighters. Then, I thought about the reference books I often use while writing.  That was the biggest clue I needed to get organized. Thirty minutes later, I finally found all of them. I had a bad habit of leaving them where I last used them.

Great advice! I have discovered that when I am stuck, simply moving to a new location may trigger new ideas and my writing flows again. Others prefer to always write in the same location.

 

Time

Another variable is when you write. Some busy parents with full-time jobs find early morning before the family awakes is the best time. Others reserve a full-day per week. Still others can only write late at night. Find your ideal time and calendar it.

Hera Hub, a coworking space for entrepreneurial women, offers a Writers Lounge for two hours per week. There is something special about being in a room where everyone else is writing. You feel compelled to sit still and write. I was stuck on my next book and in that confined environment my plot issue was resolved and a new character was born.

 

Creating Rituals

In addition to where and when you write, notice if you have developed any rituals—from pencil sharpening, to brewing fresh tea, to playing just the kind of song your main character would rock out to. If you want to create writing rituals, think about all of your senses. An author I recently met takes a meditative walk and then applies cinnamon oil to her wrists before writing. I know another author who keeps M&Ms (peanut, of course) on her desk—just in case chocolate is required.

 

Please share

What inspires you to write? Share your writing rituals—however unique they might be—in the comments below.

Literally Alliteratively Literary

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

Let’s turn literary. In More Nitty-Gritty Grammar we included some terms that don’t technically fall under the “grammar” category, but are things writers use to power up their writing—metaphors, similes, analogy, alliteration, hyperbole, and onomatopoeia.

Writers who use these techniques create writing that pulls readers in, making them want to read into the night. Literary writing soars.

 

Metaphor

dolphin metaphorMetaphors are figures of speech that compare, making two very different things seem the same. Think “is” for metaphor, even though the two ideas can’t be compared literally.

• Hank is a dolphin in the ocean, diving over and over through the waves.

• Ottilie was a mule when it came to changing her mind.

• My computer is as old as a dinosaur.

 

Simile

Similes are figures of speech that make two disparate things seem similar. Think “as” or “like” for simile.

• Mr. V’s voice was like chalk screeching on a blackboard.

• “Ew! This cooking oil is as smelly as old socks.”

• She has a mind like a computer.

• The professor’s lectures were as dull as paste.

 

Jesse Owens

In Judith’s new eBook biography of Jesse Owens (Jesse Owens: Legendary Gold Medal Olympian, eFrog Press), track and field star Jesse Owens inspired many metaphors and similes among sportswriters: “In college at Ohio State, track and field star Jesse Owens was the “Buckeye Bullet,” as swift as a cheetah.” (Watch this eFrog blog for more on this eBook.)

 

 

 

Analogy

Analogies compare objects or people, often with similar features. Analogies can help illustrate or describe.

• Dr. Au made an analogy between a stomach and a food processor.

• Beverly compared her high-strung client to a spirited racehorse.

 

Alliteration

Alliteration is the repetition of letters or sounds in words that fall close together.

festive finery

ten tall trumpeters

bubbles breaking in the brook

wandering willows

• No allowance until you come and clean your closet!

 

Alliteration loses its allure with overuse:

Billy Bob bought beer for baseball buddies at Bubba’s Bar.

 

Hyperbole

Hyperbole (hie PER’ buh lee) is elaborate exaggeration used for emphasis or effect. (Wow, that was alliterative!) Bill Watterson’s cartoon in More Nitty-Gritty Grammar has Calvin saying, “What a day. I feel like I’ve been run over by a train.” Then KAPOW! Hobbes streaks in, knocking him down. Smooshed Calvin says, “I mean now I feel like that.” Sweet Hobbes notes, “See? You should always save hyperbole until you really need it.” (We forgive Calvin for using “like” when he should have used “as if.”)

• I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.

• These new shoes are killing me.

• His brain is the size of a pea.

 

Onomatopoeia

Sleepytime Me by Edith Hope FineOnomatopoeia is all about sounds—words that echo real-life sounds. Straight from the Greek word onomatopoeia, it means “words that reflect meaning in their sounds.”

We were stuck for a strong illustration for “onomatopoeia,” so emailed Brooke McEldowney, creator of the quirky comic 9 Chickweed Lane. We almost fell from our chairs six weeks later when her strip featuring onomatopoeia appeared in the paper. “Buzz! Hiss! Osculate!” We discovered that Brooke had written “onomatopoeia” on a Post-it and stuck it on her monitor waiting for inspiration. Lucky us. Lucky grammar readers.

Other onomatopoetic words? Babble, sizzle, whippoorwill, screech, pop . . . In Edith’s new Sleepytime Me, a bedtime book for littles (Random House, 2014), piglets “wuffle.” You won’t find wuffle in the dictionary, but it’s easy to imagine plump piggies wuffling in their sleep.

Kids love onomatopoeia and making up sounds—a great way to lure kids into writing. Be on the lookout for other great examples of literary terms. Send us your favorites—your messages make us merry.

Please Share

How to you use literary devices to add sparkle to your writing?

How to Get the Most Out of a Writers’ Conference

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

I organized large conferences for many years, so I look at conferences a bit differently than the average person. Some participants would skip the luncheon (paid for by their employer) to go shopping. Others would skip sessions and stand in the halls to snack and chat with colleagues.

But as  a writer paying your own conference fee and attending to improve your writing, make connections, and learn how to get your book published; you need to be strategic.

A writers’ conference is an investment of time and money so be sure to use both wisely.

Money

First, money. Preregister so you get the lowest rate. Make your hotel reservations early so you can stay in the conference hotel. You’ll save on transportation and won’t miss out on evening networking opportunities. Blocks of rooms at the reduced conference rate run out early. Reserve as soon as you consider attending, and if you aren’t 100% sure you’ll go, mark your calendar so you can cancel by a certain date without paying a fee.

Plan Your Schedule

Review the conference program and highlight any workshops or events of interest. Then go back through time slots where you have more than one workshop highlighted. You can often make the decision the day of the workshop but now you are armed and ready with your finalists identified.

If consultations are offered with agents and editors, do your homework. Read their biography statements and make sure they work with your genre. Note any deadlines for advanced readings.

Network

At meals and breaks don’t just chat with your friends — you can talk to them at home for free. This is your opportunity to connect with the new people around you. If you are shy by nature, know that many writers are and most do want to network at conferences. Just smile at your neighbor and ask, “Tell me about your writing.” What writer could resist such an invitation?

If there are receptions, breakfasts, happy hours, or other types of networking events, attend. You might meet your new beta reader or even your future agent!

And don’t sell too hard. Yes, you have refined your elevator pitch until it is irresistible but give it a rest. When editors, agents, and other writers are mingling they want to relax and get to know you so it may not be the best time for your spiel. Unless, of course, an editor turns to you and says, “Tell me about your book.” Go for it!

Collect business cards from your new connections and make notes each night so you don’t confuse the fantasy author with the biographer. Send followup emails a few days after the conference to those you want to keep in contact with. Follow, friend, and link up with any people you enjoyed connecting with in person.

Work the Workshops

Divide and conquer. If you attend with friends, you can share notes from different workshops. Even better, share the costs of purchasing recordings of the sessions. I am still listening to the sessions I couldn’t attend at the recent 31st Annual SDSU Writers’ Conference. Some of the sessions I did not even highlight have been packed with useful information.

Wondering which conference to attend? Chuck Sambuchino’s post on “Which Writers’ Conferences are the Best to Attend,” lists a nice selection complete with links.

Above all, go, enjoy, and learn!

Share

Please share your conference strategies and your favorite writers’ conferences.

10 Reasons to Attend a Writers’ Conference

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

LC Scott, owner of eFrog Press, reflects on books, publishing, indie authors and writing in Take the Leap.

Last weekend I attended a wonderful conference—the 31st annual San Diego State University Writers’ Conference. Careful coordination ensured that writers at any level of experience gained new information and had the opportunity to network with fellow writers, published authors, literary agents, and editors from major publishing houses. There was a nice mix of major speakers, practical workshops, consultations, and networking time.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-writing-female-student-working-laptop-image21751002

Should you invest the time and money to attend a writers’ conference? Here are my ten reasons why I think it could be worth it.

1. Meet other writers
Writing is a solitary experience. You sit alone at your computer typing away, persevering, but it is comforting to meet others who share your passion. There is something magical about meeting other writers. Imagine the power of being surrounded by hundreds (or dozens) of writers.

2. Meet published authors
I have heard dozens of authors speak and have never heard the same publishing journey twice. It is inspiring to hear how other real people fulfilled their dreams of publishing their book, whether through a legacy publisher or the indie route. You will learn about the many different ways to make your dream a reality.

3. Form a writing group
It is important to read to a live audience not made up of adoring (or critical) family members. Putting together a group of nearby writers to meet on a regular basis and critique each other’s work is invaluable—and free.

4. Discover beta readers
When your manuscript is “done” (note the emphasis), you need a few trusted readers to read your draft. You need feedback on parts that are confusing, boring, and even parts that soar. You do not want to delete the most powerful sections if you are asked to tighten the story. And, of course, you can reciprocate and read their drafts.

5. Speak with agents
Many conferences have literary agents available to meet with authors one on one. Sometimes you send a few pages before the conference and sometimes you get ten minutes to pitch your book. The job of a literary agent is to acquire works from promising authors so don’t miss this opportunity.

6. Meet with editors from publishing houses
Writers’ conferences are one of the only ways to meet with an editor directly without going through an agent or being miraculously found in the slush pile of manuscripts. Research the publishing houses represented so you can pitch to an editor who actually acquires books in your genre.

7. Learn about the publishing business—yes, it is a business

Some aspiring authors are a little starry eyed about publishing but it is a business first. Legacy publishers will not acquire your book unless convinced it will make money for them. And if you plan to indie publish, a very real option, you want to make sure that your investment in editing, cover design, formatting, etc., will be recouped by book sales. In addition, there is the matter of ISBNs, barcodes, copyright, contracts, and other legal issues. Do your homework.

8. Learn more about your genre
When you hear authors in your genre speak, consider reading their books and then connect with them through social media. Immerse yourself in reading books in your genre so you are aware of the sometimes-unwritten rules that passionate readers of this type of book expect the author to follow. And also be aware of when you can take risks and deliberately break those rules.

9. Discover current trends
After two or three days at a writers’ conference you will undoubtedly notice hot topics in your genre. Beware of blindly following trends. It can take years to publish a book (often two years) so the popular books now were pitched two or three years ago. Agents and editors are often looking for something new. Many writers with no real interest in teens jumped on the YA bandwagon because of the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter and the Hunger Games series. Agents and editors were gagging on stacks of YA fantasy and dystopian manuscripts—and probably still are. Write what you know and love.

10. Understand your role in marketing—including social media
Marketing is the key to finding readers.  Whether you are with a legacy publisher who connects you with their publicist or you are going it alone, you will have some role in marketing your book. Conference workshops showcase winning strategies from successful authors. You can learn how much marketing you want to do and how best to invest that time.

What have you learned at conferences?

Would love to hear how you have benefited from writers’ conferences. What has been most helpful for you?

Coming Soon: Tips on making the most of your conference experience!

Pop Quiz: Rock Your Grammar

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

A gracious happy new year to all. In 2015, resolve to review key grammar points. To check your memory, take our quick pop quiz on topics we’ve covered over the course of writing this Grammar Patrol blog. Examples come from Edith’s new Jump, Froggies!, an ebook for folks who want to write children’s books.

 

Ready? Set? Go!

1.

A. Ask Jennifer. Her and me are in charge of the cake.

B. Ask Jennifer. She and I are in charge of the cake.

 

2.

A. That report gave John and me a chance to redeem ourselves.

B. That report gave John and I a chance to redeem ourselves.

 

3.

A. ”I’ll never tell,“ said Theo.

B. “I’ll never tell,” said Theo.

 

4.

A. “Fire!” yelled Andrea.

B. “Fire,” yelled Andrea!

 

5.

A. (Sign:) Bouquets for sale: $7

B. (Sign:) Bouquet’s for sale: $7

 6.

A. Possessive its never splits.

B. Possessive it’s never splits.

7.

A. “Wait-what’s that noise?”

B. “Wait—what’s that noise?”

C. “Wait–what’s that noise?”

8.

A. Camilla is the youngest of the two sisters.

B. Camilla is the younger of the two sisters.

 Frog thumbsup


A froggy thumbs up for these answers:

 

1. B. Put Out a BOLO (Be On the LookOut) on Pronoun Agreement

2. A. Put Out a BOLO (Be On the LookOut) on Pronoun Agreement

3. B. Did you spot the quotation mark mix-up?

Straight quotes, curly quotes, ellipses: what’s a writer to do?

4. A. Quotation Mark Questions? Think Symphony Orchestra!

5. A. Apostrophes: Flowers or Weeds?

6. A. Apostrophes: Flowers or Weeds?

7. B. Ems and Ens for Writers

8. B. Grammar Tips for Comparisons

 

 How did you do?

Jump, Froggies! CoverBanishing grammar rust is a great way to start the new year. And if you or your friends have longed to write books for children, take a look at Jump, Froggies: 89+ Beginners’ Tips for Writing Children’s Books from eFrog Press.

That’s it from the Grammar Patrol. You’ll find more answers to grammar questions in our zany Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar guides. Let us know when you hear or see bloopers of any kind. We love hearing from you.

Is Your New Year’s Resolution to Write a Book?

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

Want to publish in 2015? The hardest part of writing is sitting down to do it.

As owner of eFrog Press, I often meet people who confess that they have always wanted to write a book, and some even have a few pages stashed away, yet have never realized that goal. The difference between those who actually write a book and those who want to write one is not talent or time. The difference is actually writing.

One eFrog press author also drives a limousine, leaving him with a lot of down time while he waits for clients. He writes on his iPhone while sitting in his vehicle. Time well spent! He completed a manuscript last year and is now is the revision process.

When to Write

Writing at workAre you a morning person or does your imagination come alive as the sun goes down? Choose the best time slot available in your schedule and block out at least two hours per week for writing. The two hours does not include getting up to boil water for tea, updating Facebook (even if it’s your author page), or bathroom breaks. You must be seated and producing text for 120 minutes—preferably consecutive minutes.

How you write doesn’t matter. I mostly compose in Microsoft Word but switch to a pencil and yellow legal pad if I’m struggling. Others love Scrivener or prefer to write with a gel pen. The important thing is to keep writing. Prefer to compose while standing? Whatever works for you is fine.

Writer’s block? (Look for an upcoming post addressing how to conquer this obstacle!) Get started and stay focused for 120 minutes. You may struggle to write anything worthwhile at first but hang in there. The second hour may be your breakthrough.

After four weeks of regular writing (480 minutes total), consider adding another writing block to your week. The only way you will ever complete your book is by putting in the time. The more time you invest, the quicker the book will be done.

Where to Write

Think carefully about your location. If you choose the kitchen table at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, will other family members likely need the space for breakfast? If you plan to use your home office desk, will the stacks of bills and blinking voice mail messages distract you? Find a quiet place to work with few distractions and turn off your wireless access on your computer so social media and email do not fight for your attention. Put your cell phone on mute and commit to staying put until your time is up.

Publishing a book need not wait until you retire and have more time. If writing a book is important to you, carve out the time and space now and make it happen.

Share Your Time and Space

When and where do you write?

 

Give the Gift of Reading: Our Recommendations for Ebooks for Children

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

As a former teacher, I can think of no better gift for children than books. If you want to encourage reading, help kids see how special books are. Need some last-minute suggestions? Ebooks are the way to go! Here are some of eFrog Press’s recent titles that would make great presents for the children in your life.

 

Children’s Fiction

Smoky: The Cowhorse by Will James
Western adventure about a horse by Will JamesThis children’s classic, and winner of the 1927 Newbery Medal for children’s literature, is the unforgettable story of a horse—from his first hours on the prairie sod to his final years out to pasture. Smoky grows up wild, strong, and wise to the ways of the range, fighting wolves and braving stiff winds. Clint, a bronco-busting cowboy on the Rocking R Ranch, thinks the spirited animal is the finest little horse he ever saw. After many adventurous years with Clint on the Rocking R, Smoky mysteriously disappears, only to turn up later as an outlaw bucking horse on the rodeo circuit.

“There have been many horse stories. But not one of them can compare with this book.”
New York Times Book Review

Available as an ebook

 

Young Adult Fiction

Shenandoah: Daughter of the Stars by Nancy Johnson

YA Civil War story featuring strong female characterDuring the turbulent years of the Civil War, three young people struggle to follow their dreams as the war devastates their homeland and their way of life in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in this final installment of Johnson’s Civil War trilogy.

Hannah Yeager works hard on her family’s farm and teaches in a nearby school, while remaining loyal to the Union. Secretly, her fourteen-year-old heart  dreams of true love. What she finds is a handsome Confederate colonel. Hannah’s thirteen-year-old brother, Willy, is spirited and headstrong. He rebels against his family’s values and seeks adventure by joining an outlaw raider band, terrorizing the Union Army.

“This story will appeal to young and old alike, especially fans of Civil War fiction. While this book is the third in a series it can easily be read as a stand alone…. A great Civil War fiction tale that allows readers to step into the lives of three unique characters!” — Readers’ Favorite

Available in print and ebook format.

 

 

The Way of the Wilderness by Jess Walker

The Way of the WildernessSam West thought he knew what it was like to feel alone in the world. He has been abandoned by his mother, neglected by his alcoholic father, and ignored by every foster parent he was sent to. At fifteen, Sam decides to find his mother in search of a future with the woman he barely remembers. But when his bush plane crashes in Northern Ontario, Canada, a vast expanse of untamed wilderness, Sam is the sole survivor and utterly alone.

Determined to live and somehow make it back to civilization, Sam uses every ounce of knowledge to fight the elements, the treacherous predators, and most of all, to keep his head in the game of survival. After a near-death encounter with a bear shakes him to his core, the appearance of a mysterious mountain man surprises him the most. Together, they embark upon a long journey to find the world again, a world that will be forever different to these two survivors. But Sam also finds something he never thought possible; he finds the friendship and the love he always wanted, forged in the solitary landscape of the wilderness.

Available in print and ebook format.

 

Nonfiction for Children

The Spotlight Biography Series focuses on real lives of inspirational people, and is perfect for introducing kids to nonfiction. Here are three titles now available as ebooks for the first time.

Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist by Lynda Plueger

Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist coverThomas Nast became a voice of justice through his political cartoons. He became famous for his depictions of the Civil War, his political party illustrations, and for his help in developing the now-popular image of jolly old Saint Nick. But his biggest battle came in his own hometown, where he decided to go up against William “Boss” Tweed and his Tammany Hall collaborators—the notoriously crooked leaders of New York City, bribing and laundering money into their own overstuffed pockets. Nast was never intimidated by threats and he never backed down, even when his life was threatened. Through his political cartoons he made a difference, and helped bring the Tweed Ring to justice. Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist illustrates the power of art and conviction and the journey of this American icon.

Available as an ebook.

 

Jesse Owens: Legendary Gold Medal Olympian by Judith Pinkerton Josephson

Jesse Owens“I always loved running,” said track-and-field legend Jesse Owens, who as a boy could outrun all his playmates. That blazing speed helped Owens set track records in junior high, high school, and on into college at Ohio State University. At one Big Ten meet, he smashed three world records and tied a fourth in 45 minutes. By the time Owens competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, people used words like “express” and “comet” to describe him. Germany’s leader, Adolf Hitler, and his Nazi party believed that Jews, African-Americans, and other groups were inferior beings. Jesse Owens proved them wrong by winning four gold medals.

This previously published biography contains updates, revisions, a new cover and photos, and hyperlinks to educational websites. Jesse Owens succeeded in spite of racism, poverty, and other obstacles. He met these issues with strength, perseverance, and grace. A man of determination and courage, he rose above the bigotry of the era to become a consummate athlete, humanitarian, friend and role model for young people, and an athletic ambassador.

Available as an ebook.

 

Gary Paulsen: Adventurer and Author by Edith Hope Fine

Gary PaulsenWith more than two hundred books to his credit, Gary Paulsen is fast becoming an American legend. A popular children’s author, Paulsen draws on life experiences to write mystery, memoir, adventure, humor, and survival, including the best-selling Hatchet. He has run the Iditarod, survived violent sea storms, picked crops, worked at carnivals, been blown off a mountain, plunged through lake ice in the dead of winter, and had his pants catch fire while training his dogs. The result is books people love to read.

Against all odds, Gary Paulsen has become a popular, prolific children’s writer. Mystery, memoir, adventure, survival, and humor—he’s done them all. Paulsen draws on life experiences to create books young people love to read. Kids who love his books will be fascinated by Paulsen’s life story.

Available as an ebook.

 

 Gift Suggestions

What children’s books do you love to gift?

eFrog Press Recommends Books for Holiday Gifts

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

LC Scott, owner of eFrog Press, reflects on books published in 2014. Next week she will focus on titles for children.

 

As I look back over books we have worked on at eFrog Press in 2014, I have some wonderful holiday gift recommendations for the readers in your life. Not sure how to gift an ebook? All of the big ebook sellers provide a simple process. I don’t mean a gift card. I mean there is a method to send a person a specific ebook that you think they would enjoy reading. For example, Barnes & Noble’s website allows you to select the book you want to gift and then click on “Buy as Gift” (to the right of the Buy Now button) to send the gift to the recipient. On Amazon, find the book you’d like to send and select the “Give as a Gift” button (to the far right of the page, under the Buy button).

So here are my recommendations.

Science Fiction


science fiction, futuristic
For a futuristic page turner, consider gifting Philippe de Vosjoli’s I AM the Other and his sequel, The CyberBardos. An unknown entity is taking over computer screens around the world and transmitting puzzling messages that inspire fear in some and awe in others. Governments, religious groups, and individuals struggle to make sense of the ongoing messages. The second volume may be even better than the first so put this fast-paced series at the top of your list for science fiction lovers. Available in print and ebook.

 

Classic Westerns


Will James Cowboys North and South
Prefer Westerns? Will James was a real cowboy who wrote and illustrated tales based on his own experiences in the Wild West. James published a 22-book set on the range and now, for the first time, Bareback Publishing has released four titles through eFrog Press as ebooks: Cowboys North and South, The Drifting Cowboy, Lone Cowboy: My Life Story, and Smoky: The Cowhorse. In the preface to Cowboys North and South (1922), James writes, “The cowboy’s life can’t be learnt in a day or even a year, it’s a life you got to be raised at to understand, and I’ve had it proved that in my work even tho it may be rough, all the folks of the cow countries are backing me in what I say, and I hear the same holler as I used to when riding the side-winding bucker ‘stay a long time cowboy.’” Written in authentic cowboy vernacular, these titles bring the West back to life and are accompanied by illustrations by the author. Now available as ebooks.

 

New Western


The Bone Feud
How about a rollicking new Western with scientific touches? Screenwriter and video game designer Wynne McLaughlin’s The Bone Feud is the real story of a bitter feud between two paleontologists as they scoured the Wild West for skeletal remains of undiscovered dinosaur species. Scientist-adventurers Edward Cope and O.C. Marsh inadvertently unleashed “dinosaur fever” across the globe, and their amazing discoveries became the subject of bidding wars by universities, museums, and even the great showman P.T. Barnum. Their story has never been told, until now. This book is a fun read with a strong thread of truth. Available in print and ebook.

 

Historical Fiction

Richard Fitchen Republic in TriumphAny historical fiction lovers on your holiday list? Richard Fitchen’s writing combines storytelling with meticulous historical research. As a former professor, social sciences bibliographer at Yale University, and research librarian and bibliographer at Stanford, Fitchen does his homework and is passionate about making history come to life for his readers. His An American Saga series is a bold undertaking following feuding American families through the centuries from the 1700s to modern day.

Republic in Triumph: Jessie’s America covers 1908 to 1964. Attorney Jessie LaBarre practices judo and serves as an advisor to presidents. She spurs the growth of civil liberties, labor relations, women’s rights, and collective security, and she paves the way for a revolutionary culture of automobiles and airplanes. Readers of this historical novel meet leading men and women of the tumultuous decades from Theodore Roosevelt to Lyndon B. Johnson. Her family’s nemeses, the Camerons, plot to destroy Jessie and her family. Although she wins some convictions against them in court, a ruthless new Cameron generation extracts a terrible price. Available in print and ebook.

 

Christmas Picture Book


'Twas the Late Night of Christmas
Need a gift for a family that celebrates Christmas? ‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas by Ann Whitford Paul and illustrated by Nancy Hayashi is a fun picture book that adults and kids alike will enjoy. This delightful retelling of the classic Christmas poem gives Mrs. Saint Nick a starring role and the recognition she deserves.

‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas and all through the house
Everyone was exhausted, even the mouse.
The children were whining. The house was a mess.
Mom slumped in despair from all of the stress.

The perfect gift for hassled parents overwhelmed by the crazy-making business of Christmas. View the book trailer and let Malcolm in the Middle‘s Jane Kaczmarek tell you more. Available in print, ebook and read aloud.

 

The Joy of Gifting Ebooks

The best thing about gifting ebooks is you can wait until the very last minute to make your purchases without paying for expedited shipping!

What are your favorite books to gift at this time of year? Share with us below in the comments.

 

 

 

Gaggle, Herd, Jury, Troupe—They’re Collective!

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

The Grammar Patrol

We (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

 

We see collective nouns every day—nouns for persons, animals, or things  that act as a single unit.

Collective nouns: Herd of Cows

A herd of cows–”herd” is a collective noun.

 

  • As winter nears, flocks of birds fly south.
  • A coven of witches roams on Halloween.
  • Bipsy’s new litter of kittens mewls.
  • The cast was stellar in tonight’s play.
  • The jury is still out.

In a newspaper profile we wrote, we described our charismatic subject as “about as subtle as a fluorescent yellow Porsche in a bevy of beige Buicks.” She called, laughing when the article came out: “This is the Porsche speaking.”

Check out this bevy of collective nouns:

choir, assembly, tribe, audience, band, class, committee, corps, couple,crew, crowd, faculty, flock, group, jury, couple, majority, nation, pair, panel, press, series, set, company, family, team, crowd, school

 

Collective nouns used to describe a group of animals include covey, herd, pack, team, swarm, catch, and even murder! (a murder of crows.) Some of these describe  more than one type of animal—a herd of cattle or wild horses.

You’ll usually see a prepositional phrase with a plural object follow the collective noun.

• A pod of whales swam past.

• A gaggle of geese milled about the yard.

• A covey of partridges roosts for the night.

• A pride of lions rests on the hill.

 

So what do collective nouns have to do with grammar? They can be a bit tricky.  Will you pair them with a singular or a plural verb? 

 

Collective Nouns and Singular Verbs

Collective nouns usually take singular verbs. To check your verb form, substitute the singular pronoun “it” for the collective noun.

• The faculty votes tomorrow. (It votes . . .)

• The crew dances a jig. (It dances . . .)

• The Hughes family travels often. (It travels . . .)

• The panel has released its findings. (It has released . . . )

 

Tip: Corporations act like collective nouns, even if the company’s name is plural. While a specific company may have many employees, refer to it as a single entity:

• Pfizer manufactures Lipitor, a cholesterol drug.

• Brinkley Brothers sells lottery tickets.

 

Collective Nouns and Plural Verbs

If Here’s where things can get thorny. If members of a group act as individuals, not as a unit, use a plural verb.

• The panel of doctors were not of one mind. (Each doctor had a different opinion.)

• The class begin their science experiments today. (They separate experiments.)

 

Collective Nouns That Measure

With collective nouns such as majority, number, percent, and total, let the words that follow and the meanings of the sentences help you decide whether the verb is singular or plural.

When what follows is singular:

  •  Your total number is fifty-two. (number is . . . )
  • Twenty-one percent of the class fails the test. (class fails . . .)

 

When what follows is plural:

  • Half of the tables are occupied. (tables are . . .)
  • Fifty percent of the books are paperback. (books are . . .)
  • The majority of new cars have GPS capability. (cars have . . .)

Grammar Questions?

Collectively speaking, that’s it from the Grammar Patrol. Keep an eye out for gaggles of honking Canadian geese or herds of cows that wander onto the highway! When you have grammar questions, consult our zany Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar guides or write to us here. Next month, time for your annual year-end pop quiz. 

 

Of Dinosaurs and Desperadoes—Writing “The Bone Feud”

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Author Photo ColorWynne McLaughlin is a video game designer, screenwriter, and television writer. He is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America, west and the International Game Developers Association. His first novel, “The Bone Feud,” an action-packed true story of dinosaur bone hunters in the Wild West, will be available as a free download from Amazon.com on Tuesday, November 18th and Thursday, November 20th .

 

Of Dinosaurs and Desperadoes—Writing “The Bone Feud”

“An action adventure novel about dinosaur bone hunters in the Wild West? How did you come up with an idea like that?” Great question.  For me, the journey that eventually led me to write The Bone Feud began when I was just five years old.

Today, the North Shore Shopping Center in Peabody, Massachusetts, is a huge, multilevel mall, but in the mid-1960s, it was an open-air shopping center with a small selection of kiddie rides at one end. The year I entered kindergarten the shopping center sponsored a dinosaur exhibit. They brought in a number of life-sized fiberglass models of dinosaurs on wheeled trailers and parked them beside the amusements for the kids to gawk at. There was a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Stegosaurus, a Triceratops, and an enormous green Brontosaurus (which today we know to be an Apatosaurus) that looked very much to me like Dino, the family pet from one of my favorite cartoon shows, The Flintstones. I’ve no idea how accurate these representations were, only that, in the wide eyes of a five year old, they were magnificent. It was right then and there that my lifelong fascination with dinosaurs began.

I immediately proclaimed that when I grew up I wanted to be an “archaeologist” and dig up dinosaur bones, but my mother patiently explained to me that archaeologists don’t dig up dinosaur bones, and that what I actually wanted to be was a paleontologist.

In the years that followed I fell in love with all things science. My father took me to the Harvard Museum of Natural History to see real dinosaur skeletons. I began to collect rocks and a few small fossils. I became enraptured by the Apollo space programs and watched in the grainy footage of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon in awe, on a tiny, flickering black and white television. I owned a chemistry set, a telescope, a microscope, and a working scale-model German steam engine that I’d won in a contest, for building a whacky Rube Goldberg machine that ate spaghetti. I was determined to become a scientist of some kind.

 

Science is Hard

My disillusionment came in junior high school when I discovered that a large part of any science degree involved advanced mathematics, something for which I had no natural talent. I was “numerically challenged,” but I loved to read, and for me, reading science fiction was the next best thing to studying science. I was such a voracious reader that eventually becoming a writer was inevitable.

I began to write screenplays and eventually moved to Los Angeles. I was in my early 20s, waiting tables and tending bar to pay my bills while I wrote. Eventually I got my break and ended up spending the better part of ten years writing for film and television. Today I make my living writing and designing video games.

 

The Bones of Contention

Before I left the film industry, around 2000-2001, I stumbled upon a nonfiction book by author and newspaper journalist Mark Jaffe. Entitled The Gilded Dinosaur: The Fossil War Between E.D. Cope and O.C. Marsh and the Rise of American Science, it detailed the history of the events known variously as “The Bone Wars” and the “Great Dinosaur Rush.” These events came about when two paleontologists made a remarkable series of discoveries, unearthing the remains of some of the greatest of the Jurassic dinosaur species we know today.

A straightforward re-telling of their story would have been somewhat dry, and ultimately quite depressing. These two men, Professor Edward Drinker Cope and Professor O.C. Marsh, were compulsive, jealous, driven men, and their bitter feud ultimately destroyed them both. But the events surrounding the story captured my imagination. This happened in the late 1870s at the height of the American Wild West. In the course of their travels, Cope and Marsh crossed paths with an amazing array of colorful characters who have been heavily romanticized in Western fiction over the years: Wild Bill Hickok, P.T. Barnum, the great Sioux leader Red Cloud, and many others. As I read their stories I began to see within them the bones of a fantastic adventure tale. I saw wonder and magic in these events, and I became determined to take their story and make it my own.

 

“The Truth Is Bound To Be Somewhere In Between.”

I made notes on all of the most interesting characters and events and wrote them on a series of index cards, posting them on a giant corkboard. I moved them around, combined some events, and altered others. I compressed timelines and took liberties with historical fact. In the end, I was satisfied with the structure of the story I’d created, but there was something missing. I needed a lens to view the story through. In short, I needed a storyteller.

At about this same time I read the fabulous revisionist western Little Big Man, by Thomas Berger. I’d become aware of the novel after seeing the Dustin Hoffman film of the same name. Both the novel and the film used a framing sequence—“bookended” scenes—that had Jack Crabb, the 121 year old main character, recounting his story in flashback to a curious historian.

I’d learned, from Mark Jaffe’s book, of a newspaperman who had published a number of stories about Cope and Marsh’s feud in the New York Herald. I made William H. Ballou my stand-in for the historian. But who would be telling him the story? I didn’t want to use Cope or Marsh, or any of their known associates. I wanted an outside perspective; someone peripherally involved with the story, but not a scientist. I wanted someone the reader would immediately identify with. An everyman.

Garvey the catAs I was sitting at my computer thinking about this, our cat leaped up onto my lap. He was an older cat, an orange tabby that had been with my wife for over a decade before I met her. He was the star of a hundred stories my wife had told me over the years. Garvey had the most adventuresome spirit of any animal I’d ever met. If only he could talk.

And just like that, my fictional hero James Garvey was born.

 

Breaking All The Rules

I finished the screenplay for The Bone Feud a few months later and was convinced that it was the best thing I’d ever written. I had my agent send it out, and I had some initial interest, but ultimately nothing came of it. It broke all the rules. It was a big budget period piece. It had an ensemble cast rather than one or two starring roles. And it was a Western. Westerns have been a hard sell since their golden age in the 50s and 60s. So, I put it on a shelf, but I never forgot about it. I’d fallen in love with this story and these characters. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I just couldn’t give it up.

The Bone FeudA few years ago I dusted it off and began to turn it into a novel. I knew, as written, it would be a short novel, and I briefly considered padding it out. I could add more descriptive text, additional scenes, or more back story to make it a more marketable length, but when it came right down to it, I didn’t want to do that. This was exactly the story I wanted to tell, and the way I wanted to tell it.

 

The Parts That People Skip

One of my writing heroes, the great Elmore Leonard, said, “When you write, try to leave out all the parts that readers tend to skip.” That was his style. He left out big descriptive paragraphs, kept things as lean and as fast-moving as possible, and revealed character through dialog. That’s what I tried to do. In the end, I wanted to create a novel that filled the reader’s head with images, and kept them compulsively turning pages.

My favorite early review said that one of the things they most enjoyed about The Bone Feud was that “It was almost like watching a movie in my head.” That was entirely my intention. I hope the rest of my readers feel the same way.

 

FREE Download!

You can download The Bone Feud for free today, Tuesday, Nov. 18th, or on Thursday, Nov. 20th, at Amazon.com. If you enjoy it, and you’re willing to post a review of the book on Amazon, I’ll be forever grateful.

 

Tips for Capitalization from The Grammar Patrol

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

The Grammar Patrol We (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

Capitals (and Capitols) are Capital!

Fireworks flew on the Fourth of July, illuminating the nation’s Capitol building. A capital idea! We all know the basic rules about when to use capitals: for the pronoun “I,” beginnings of sentences, people’s names, place names. But let’s look at some of the trickier situations.

© Jpldesigns | Dreamstime.com - Washington DC Fourth Of July Fireworks Photo

 

Titles

Titles of plays, books, television series, movies, poems, magazines, journals, and articles can trip you up. Use capitals for the first word and all others—except prepositions, articles (a, an, the), and conjunctions.

Play: Two Gentlemen of Verona

Book: A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren

TV series: House of Cards

Movie:            Words and Pictures

Journal: School Library Journal

Magazine: In Style (Cap the preposition “in”: first word in this title.)

Poem:  “Genie in a Jar” by Nikki Giovanni (No cap on “in”; not first word.)

Article: “Ford SUV to Challenge Jeep Wrangler”

 

Proper nouns

A second grader once told the Grammar Patrol that a proper noun is “a fancy noun that gets a capital.” Exactly right.

Capitalize proper nouns, including days of the week, months, and holidays, specific people & things, buildings, companies, organizations, and schools:

Sunday, August, Valentine’s Day, John Smith, Toyota, the Capitol, Pfizer, DreamWorks, Amnesty International, Baseball Hall of Fame, Bolshoi Ballet, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Southern Poverty Law Center, Howard University, Stanford University.

Historical events, documents, or government programs

Gettysburg Address, World War II, Bicentennial, Emancipation Proclamation, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Medicare, Social Security

People’s titles

Capitalize civil, religious, military, and professional titles when they appear before a person’s name. If the title follows the name, don’t capitalize the title. If a title appears without the name of a person, do not capitalize it.

• Civil Titles

President Adams

John Adams, president of the United States

I spoke with the president. (not the President)

• Religious Titles

Capitalization of titles varies among different religions and denominations. Some examples:

Rabbi Benno Scheinberg

Benno Scheinberg, the rabbi

• Professional Titles

Dr. Sujan Wong, chief of Surgery

Sujan Wong, surgeon

• Some titles, such as “Speaker of the House,” are always capitalized, with or without the person’s name.

• Names of companies and academic departments, even when they appear after a person’s title.

Ronald Josephson, professor of Foods and Nutrition

Jenni Prisk, president of Prisk Communication

Family names

If you can substitute a person’s name for a relationship name like “uncle” or “grandmother,” capitalize.  If not, use lower case.

I’m writing Aunt Kirsten Josephson.

but

My aunt bought us all ice cream.

I spoke with Mother.

We sat with Bill’s grandfather, Norman Hope.

Seasons

Don’t capitalize seasons: summer, fall, winter, spring.

In the summer, we head for Hawaii.

When seasons denote specific academic semesters, use a capital letter, but no comma: 

Fall 2014

Summer 2015

Religions and holy books, days, and words for a Supreme Being

Talmud, Bible, Koran

Passover, Christmas, Ramadan

Yahweh, God, Allah

Geographic regions

New England, Pacific Northwest, the South

Don’t capitalize directions: We’re fifty miles north of Atlanta.

Languages

Mona speaks Farsi at home and English at the office.

Names of computer programs

Quicken, Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat

Book series and editions *

Capitalize titles of book series and editions. Use lowercase letters for the words “series” and “editions.”

Gary Paulsen’s Culpepper Adventure series, large-type Reader’s Digestedition

Within parentheses

If a complete parenthetical sentence stands alone, capitalize the beginning letter.

He asked if she’d heard the news. (She hadn’t.)

With colons

• Capitalize a complete sentence or a full quotation after a colon.

Remember Murphy’s Law: Any horizontal surface fills up.

• Do not capitalize phrases, lists, or incomplete sentences after a colon.

For the big game, he wore University of Michigan’s colors: maize and blue.

* Some sources now say to use Roman rather than italics with series names: Betty Birney’s rollicking According to Humphrey series. Consistency is the key.

 

That’s it from the Grammar Patrol! Hope you’ll capitalize on this info! When in doubt, consult our zany Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar guides.

Author of Thomas Nast Shares Her Publishing Journey from Traditional to Indie

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Lynda Pfleuger, authorLynda Pflueger has written nine biographies for children.  Her books have been favorably reviewed by Kirkus, School and Library Journal, and Booklist. Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist is the fourth book in the Spotlight Biography Series.


 

One day, while researching an article on collecting, a book fell from the shelf above me and hit me on the head. I rubbed my head for a few seconds and then reached down and picked up the book.  It was about a man who collected political cartoons. His favorite cartoonist was Thomas Nast.

I’m a history buff, particular US history. I love visiting museums and libraries. Nothing pleases me more than to roam around dusty old archives and find newspaper articles or photographs I can use in my books. Sometimes my discoveries come from unusual places and surprise me.

Boss Tweed with money bag for a head to show his greedI was intrigued by Nast’s story. After the Civil War, with only his pen as a weapon, he helped bring down a notoriously corrupt group of politicians called the Tweed Ring in New York City. Nast continually harassed the ring with his drawings and often focused his attention on William M. Tweed, the leader of the ring. In one drawing entitled “Brains Nast drew Tweed dressed in a three-piece business suit and replaced his head with a money bag to signify the money he had stolen from the city.

 

Santa Claus by Thomas NastI also fell in love with Nast’s drawings of Santa Claus inspired by Clement Moore’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Nast portrayed Santa Claus as a jolly old fellow with a white beard and round belly.

 

Then I came across one of Nast’s drawings entitled Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner and I knew I had to write about him. In the drawing Uncle Sam is carving a turkey, next to him is Columbia, and sitting around the table are Americans from around the world:  Germany, France, Britain, Africa, China, Italy, Spain, and Ireland. At the bottom of the drawing on the left side Nast wrote, “Come One Come All,” and on the right side, “Free and Equal.”

 Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving

 

I started collecting all the books and magazine articles I could find about Thomas Nast. I traveled to Morristown, New Jersey, where he lived with his family. I spent days at the Morristown and Morris Township Library going through Nast’s scrapbooks, drawings, and other memorabilia. Afterward, I walked across the street to the Macculloch Hall Historical Museum and saw several of Nast’s paintings. I also discovered the Thomas Nast Society and purchased several copies of their journal. Finally, I was ready to sit down and write.

 

Queried Publishers

I completed my first draft and then sent out query letters to six educational publishers. Five months later an editor called. She was impressed with my query letter. Her publishing house was starting a new Historical American Biography Series. She wasn’t interested in a book about Nast at the time; but wondered if I would like to submit a proposal for a biography of someone on their list. She gave me a choice of five people. I chose Stonewall Jackson and within a week I submitted a proposal. Timing was important because they wanted the complete book in four months.

I met my deadline and a year later the first book in the Historical American Biography series, Stonewall Jackson:  Confederate General was published. A few weeks later my editor called with the news that Kirkus had favorably reviewed my book and commented it would find fans with Civil War enthusiasts.

Over the next few years, I wrote several other books for the series. Then one day my editor called and asked if I still wanted to write about Thomas Nast. I enthusiastically responded, “Yes!”

 

Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist Published

Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist coverThe first edition of Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist was published in 2000. This year, I updated the text, added hyperlinks, more photos and a new cover for an ebook version. For more information about Thomas Nast and upcoming writing projects visit my website at LyndaPflueger.com. The ebook is now available online.

 

Note:  The images used in this blog are from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, reproduction numbers: LC-USZ62-787, LC-USZ62-42027, and LC-USZ62-85882.

 

Please Share

Tell me about your publishing journey. I doubt it started with a book falling on your head, but would love to hear the details.

How to Avoid Pronoun Errors: The Grammar Patrol Shares Favorite Bloopers

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

The Grammar Patrol with Bear

The Grammar Bear

When our Nitty-Gritty Grammar guides first came out, we hit seven bookstores in one day along with our Grammar Bear, thanks to Guy Hill Cadillac. Such fun. Along the way people shared their top grammar pet peeves. Ever since, we’ve collected bloopers heard and seen today. This month we’ll focus on the (alliterative!) preponderance of pronoun problems. We’ve omitted names and sources to protect the guilty. Spot the bloopers before reading the explanations!

 

 

 

“What would you say to the idea of you and I becoming friends?”

We hear pronouns used incorrectly so often they start to sound correct. The word “of” is a preposition. Prepositions take objective pronouns (me, you, him, her, whom, us, them), not subjective pronouns (I, you, he, she, who, we, they). The secret is in the words themselves: subjective and objective. Subjects and objects! (Luckily, “you” stays the same whether subject or object.)

So here’s the fix: We like the idea of you and me becoming friends!

 

• “That’ll buy Rick and I enough time.”

Vacuum out “Rick.” Would you say, “That’ll buy I enough time”? “That” is the subject of the sentence. Use the objective “me”: “That’ll buy Rick and me enough time.”

 

• “Jason introduced you and I back in 2010.”

Jason is the subject. He did the action. “You and I” are used as objects of the verb “introduced.” Wait a sec! Objects! We can’t use “I” as an object. We need objective pronouns: Jason introduced you and me.

 

• “One of the differences between Mark and I is that I flunked and he didn’t.”

Remember Edith’s mom’s ditty: “Between thee, me, and the gatepost.” “Between” is a preposition. You know that prepositions take objective pronouns: between Mark and me.

 

• “Being in this play gave my son and I a chance to work together.”

Change the subject (“Being in this play”) to “it.” Would you say, “It gave I a chance to work together with my son”? No: “It gave me a chance . . .” Make this sentence “Being in this play gave my son and me a chance to work together.”

(For those inquiring minds deeply into grammar: The subject, “Being in this play,” is a gerund phrase: the gerund “being,” plus the prepositional phrase “in this play.”)

 

“Who should I serve next?”

Do a turnaround: I should serve who/whom next. Since “I” is the subject, the question of the person to serve is the object. Quick trick: Substitute a different pronoun. Would you say, “I should serve he” or “I should serve him”? Him, because it’s the objective pronoun: Whom shall I serve next?” (Or: “Who’s next?!”)

 

“Her and Ms. Dickerson now get along fine.”

Glide now from objective to subjective pronouns. The two women are the compound subject of the sentence. Use a subjective pronoun: “She and Ms. Dickerson get along . . .”

 Please share

Send us bloopers you spot! Next month, capital fun with capitals.

 

Your First Book Signing: What every new author needs to know

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

L.C. Scott is the founder of eFrog Press and an author. Her many years of teaching at the high school and university level and her freelance writing career have prepared her to lead a team of experts to guide both fledgling and experienced authors through the maze of indie publishing. Today on Take the Leap she advises new authors on preparations for their first book-signing event. Previous post shares how to give a two-minute book talk.

Do you have a favorite pen for book signings? If you are new to this author thing, believe it or not most seasoned authors do!

What Pen to Wield?

Paper SonIt’s not a status thing; it’s a practical thing! If you choose the wrong pen, the ink will bleed through the page (horrors!).  Depending on the type of paper, some pens will not write on the page. How embarrassing to go to a book signing and not have a pen that can write on your own book!

When I asked Virginia Shin-Mui Loh,co-author of Paper Son and The Jade Dragon, if she had a favorite, she laughed and pulled her special signing pen from her bag—it’s a Bic Mark-It fine point in black. She loves the way it glides when she autographs stacks of books.

Recently I attended a workshop by Harry Paul on his newest business book, Who Stole Excellence? He is best known as the co-author of Fish!: A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results, which sold in the millions! Millions! So Harry Paul has signed thousands of books and does not take his book signing instrument lightly. He had finished signing when I approached to request an autograph and he graciously sat down and pulled out an elegant case with his official book-signing pen!

That’s how it’s done. Find the perfect pen with the right feel, the right flow, the right color ink, and keep it ready.

 

Autographing Your Books

But what do you sign? Of course, you sign your name but give this some thought. Prolific children’s author Edith Hope Fine has some practical advice for first-time authors in her new book, Jump, Froggies! Writing Children’s Books: 89+ Tips for Beginners.

Writing Children's BooksThink ahead. How will you sign your book? You can just sign your name and the year. Or you can add a message. If you opt for the latter, make your words fit the project and make what you say meaningful.

After illustrator Kim Doner and I spoke at an International Reading Association (IRA) conference, she drew Alphy with colored pens as we signed books and added a speech bubble for me to write in! When autographing Under the Lemon Moon, I draw a moon and stars and write “May you read by the light of a lemon moon.” I now know that that’s a lot of words, especially if there’s a line waiting, so with Water, Weed, and Wait, I write, “Water, weed, and READ!” Much shorter. Cryptomania! gets “[Name,] logophile and bibliophile. Carpe curiosity!” I write with a silver or gold pen in Sleepytime Me so it shows on the deep blue of the night sky on the glossy end papers. With Armando and the Blue Tarp School, Judith and I write, “YOU can make a difference.”

I love artists who illustrate their autographs. Author/illustrator Salina Yoon draws a curvy snake and writes “Happy Reading!” when signing her lift-the-flap book, Opposnakes. Can you doodle? Get creative.

SalinaSignatureSnake

Interacting With Your Readers

When you get to the event, be memorable and don’t rush your readers. I will never forget driving my daughter’s Girl Scout troop to a bookstore to hear Ann M. Martin speak about the books they were obsessed with—The Baby-sitters Club Series. Most had never met an author before, and this was an author they loved! After the talk they patiently stood in line forever to have their books signed. Martin was so patient and attentive to each one despite the fact that it was long past time to close the store. She gained many more readers that day.

So remember, too, that you have an opportunity to connect with real readers—or their parents or grandparents—when you are signing your book. Take your time, look into their eyes, listen, and then move on.

TIP: Bring Post-its and ask those in line to print the name they want you to sign the book to and attach it to your book.  When it is their turn you will know exactly how to spell the name. Do you know how many ways there are to spell Sherry? Let’s see. Sherri, Sheri, Sherrie, Cherie, Cheri, well, you get the idea.

Please Share

How do you deal with book signings? Any advice for new authors?

Advice for New Writers: Preparing for your first author appearance

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

L.C. Scott is the founder of eFrog Press and an author. Her many years of teaching at the high school and university level and her freelance writing career have prepared her to lead a team of experts to guide both fledgling and experienced authors through the maze of indie publishing. Today on Take the Leap she advises new authors on preparations for their first public speaking event about their new book.

Congratulations! You have been invited to an author event at your local library. You have two minutes to speak and then you can sell and sign books. Simple, right? Let’s look deeper.

Two-Minute Talk

Sounds easy but think of it this way—you only have two minutes to interest your audience in coming over to look at (and buy) your book.

You need to hook them and reel them in. Prepare. Read your book blurb. Think about what would interest these people. Then practice speaking aloud and time yourself. Critical!

Civil War author Nancy Johnson

Nancy Johnson talks about her new Civil War book, Shenandoah Daughter of the Stars

At the San Carlos Library’s 40th birthday celebration in August, I was invited to be part of their Author’s Fair with 13 other authors. I rehearsed my two-minute speech several times until I could fit my comments into the time frame and interest the audience. I was surprised when my first attempt at home was over six minutes!

Nancy Johnson, author of Shenandoah, started her two minutes with a funny story about why she started to write. The audience chuckled and she had their attention as she shifted to talk about her civil war stories for young people.

Don’t Give Away the Plot

When drafting your remarks, don’t give away the plot! I once heard an enticing summary of a book but the author revealed a key plot point. I bought her book and savored her writing, but my reading experience was tainted by knowing what would not happen. Sigh.

Time Flies so Keep it Short

Less is more when you’re speaking to an audience as part of a panel. Many in the room are not there to hear what you have to say. They may be there because their Aunt Martha just published her first book, but that doesn’t mean they won’t decide to buy your book if you give them a reason to. So keep it brief and try to win them over.

Do not exceed your time. Trust me, less really is more. With 14 authors, the audience didn’t have the patience for rambling comments. Do yourself a favor and hone in on the most fascinating elements of your book and leave them wanting more, so they can’t wait to come over and talk to you. Tease them and encourage them to connect with you later. And maybe even buy your book!

Other Preparations

Richard Fitchen, Nancy Johnson, Philippe de Vosjoli

Authors Richard Fitchen, Nancy Johnson and Philippe de Vosjoli at San Carlos Library.

The other preparations are just as important as your actual speech. It was fun to see how different authors handled the same opportunity, and it made me think about what new authors can do to increase their chances of success (selling books). I will be posting future blogs about these related topics:

Displaying your wares (books) and being approachable

Preparing to sell: cash, checks, credit cards and receipts

Signing books: what do you write and what do you write with?

 

Want More?

If you have an upcoming bookstore reading, you might also enjoy the post How to Give a Bookstore Reading in 9 Easy Steps.  Learn how seasoned author Susan Meissner  did everything right at a book lauch for A Fall of Marigolds at the La Jolla, CA, bookstore Warwick’s. Of course, when you are giving a reading it helps to have a great book like Susan’s!

 

Share Your Advice

What have you learned about preparing for author events? Please share your do’s and don’t’s.

 

 

Nailing the Subjunctive: If I Were a Rich Man

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

When we came to the topic of the subjunctive verb mood during our years of teaching our “Nitty-Gritty Grammar” class, we’d get blank stares and shivering spines. “Subjunctive? What the heck?” was the usual response.

But the subjunctive is cool. And useful. Think “shoulda, woulda”!

FiddlerLargeTo start, picture us in our Grammar Patrol hats dancing around the classroom, arms high, singing “If I were a rich man . . . Daidle daidle deedle daidle dum . . .”

We’d get a laugh. (Yep, we really did this!) The tension would ease. And we’d highlight the key word: were.

“We may someday be rich,” we’d tell our students, “but we’ll never be rich men.” We had traveled together to the land of imagination.

“If we were in Paris right now,” we’d say, “we’d not be using were. Our postcards home would read, “Here we are in Paris.” (That’s a true, not imagined, trip.)

Wishes. Dreams. Things contrary to fact. That’s when the subjunctive takes a starring role.

Has something happened? Is it real? If not, think subjunctive. Look for “if,” “as if,” and “as though”—they can signal the subjunctive mood:

It seemed as though we were flying through space. (We weren’t.)

So what’s the correct choice for these examples? Finish each “If” sentence by imagining what might happen if those things were true:

If I was/were CEO of General Motors . . .

If I was/were to win the lottery . . .

If I was/were to go for my third Ph.D. . . .

If I was/were to fly to the moon . . .

If I was/were you, I’d stop whining.

Bingo. If you thought were, you’ve got it. You’re not the CEO, haven’t won the lottery, haven’t started on your third Ph.D. or flown to the moon, and you certainly are not the person to whom you’re speaking (impossible). Substituting were for was is the most common use of the subjunctive.

Digging Deeper

There’s more. Let’s dig deeper.

Use the subjunctive mood . . .

• With verbs followed by “that,” such as demand, insist, recommend, request, suggest, and urge  use “be,” plus a participle:

Ted requests that healthier snacks be offered in the break room.

• With a “to be” verb in the present tense:

It is required that all contracts be evaluated by the eagle-eyed Miss Jackson.

• With other verbs, whether present or past, use the present form of the subjunctive: It has no s even in the third person singular where you usually find it (he runs):

Our coach requires that every team member wear (not wears) orange socks.

                    (present)

The storm required that each snowplow operator work overtime (not works).

                      (past)

• With wishes—use the past subjunctive tense to express a wish.

The Harpers wish they had saved for vacation.

                                    (past subjunctive)

Antonio wished he were hiking in the Rockies.

                                    (past subjunctive)

Other Words to Watch For

Two other words can indicate the subjunctive mood: should and would.

 Should it rain on Tuesday, the barbeque is off.

 Would that I’d booked that cruise instead of that boring seminar.

 As always, there are exceptions. If a statement begins with “if,” but is true, don’t use the subjunctive. Here’s one for the politicians:

 If I was wrong, I apologize. (You very well could have been wrong.)

The same goes for using was in the past tense in a true sentence:

If George Clooney was in that limo, I didn’t see him. (George could have been in the limo.)

 Summing Up

To sum up, if everyone were to memorize just the if/were connection, the world would be a more subjunctive place. (Sorry. Grammar joke.) See you next month.

DIY Publishing & Marketing in San Diego

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

L.C. Scott is the founder of eFrog Press and an author. Her many years of teaching at the high school and university level and her freelance writing career have prepared her to lead a team of experts to guide both fledgling and experienced authors through the maze of indie publishing. Today on Take the Leap she announces an upcoming workshop for indie authors.

 

Publishing your book can be a DIY project—if you know how!  I will be sharing secrets for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand (POD) books at the September 13th hands-on workshop, How to DIY for Ebooks and Print on Demand, in Carlsbad, California.

At this workshop, I will share tips that will save you time and prevent amateur errors when you prepare to indie publish your first titles. Creating an ebook or POD book is not rocket science, but there is a learning curve. Let me help you be successful.

Learning indie publishing techniques

Writing and publishing your book is just the first half of the equation. The second half is marketing! Many creative authors are uncomfortable with the marketing process. What’s an author to do?

Attend the afternoon workshop: How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon.  Presenter Penny Sansievieri is an author; CEO, Author Marketing Experts, Inc.; and adjunct instructor at NYU. At this workshop, you will learn to:

  • Optimize your Amazon page to start showing up in more searches
  • Understand ebook and print categories and their differences
  • Optimize your book title, subtitle and keywords on Amazon
  • Make your Author Central page work for you
  • Amazon hacks: Fun tricks you can to do spruce up your Amazon page
  • Amazon reviews: Simple ways to find more reviewers for your book

 Participants will receive the following books by Penny Sansievieri:  Red Hot Internet Publicity and ebook, How to Sell Books by the Truckload.

Location: Hera Hub Carlsbad, 5205 Avenida Encinas, Suite A, Carlsbad, CA 92009

Time: 10 am to 2:30 pm with lunch included.

Our last workshop, on Aug. 16, focused on writing a book: craft, character-driven plot, and organizing nonfiction.  One attendee had this to say: “The time flew by during the workshop. I felt energized, encouraged, supported and inspired by the close of the workshop. The valuable information provided was worth hundreds of dollars. Please offer more Writers’ Craft workshops as I can’t wait to learn more.”
—Catherine Mowbray-Lorenz

Still time to register at the Early Bird discount of $120 (expires September 1). For more information visit http://bit.ly/wtrwksp

Want to Write a Book? Workshop Introduces Strategies for Fiction and Nonfiction

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Writers' Workshop, Carlsbad, CaliforniaHave you always wanted to write a book to establish yourself as an authority in your field? Let eFrog Press help you get started. The Writers’ Workshop on August 16 in Carlsbad, California, is geared to meet the needs of writers of all levels of experience. In the morning session we will focus on simple, powerful techniques to improve your writing. See last week’s blog for more details.

But in the afternoon session you will have a choice of fiction or nonfiction.

 

Nonfiction: How to Organize Your Book and Connect With Your Reader

In the nonfiction session, author Julie Bawden Davis will share her secrets for organizing a nonfiction book and connecting with your readers—think future clients! Julie has written seven nonfiction books, four of which were published through large publishing houses and two of which are bestsellers. Her self-published titles have contributed to the success of her own business.

Attendees will have an opportunity to plan their own book. Julie has been to too many workshops where participants work on writing samples. She will give you direction while you work on your own topic or the first chapter of your existing draft. She will also share examples of her own writing and explain the decisions she made when organizing her books.

 

Fiction: How to Write Character-Driven Plot

Are you interested in writing fiction? Learn how to create a vibrant plot with twists and turns. Instead of forcing your characters into a rigid plot line, let your characters drive the story!  S. Woffington has experience writing screen plays and historical fiction but is currently working on a seven-book, young adult series. She has struggled with plot and learned some techniques she will share so you can avoid the pitfalls—especially for new authors.

Woffington is an experienced teacher and editor and loves to help new authors find their voices.

 

Calling San Diego Writers

So if you have always wanted to write a book, take the first step and join us. This hands-on workshop will provide you with some tools to begin. And on September 13 we will cover DIY publishing and book marketing. But first, register for the August 16 Writers’ Workshop and begin your book—or bring the first chapter of your existing manuscript and start fine tuning!

 

Writers’ Workshops Focus on Craft, Carlsbad, CA

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

L.C. Scott is the founder of eFrog Press and an author. Her many years of teaching at the high school and university level and her freelance writing career have prepared her to lead a team of experts to guide both fledgling and experienced authors through the maze of indie publishing. Today on Take the Leap she shares about two upcoming writers’ workshops in Carlsbad, California.

We are excited to announce that eFrog Press is launching a series of workshops for writers in the San Diego area. We have plans to develop webinars so that authors—and aspiring authors—can participate from anywhere. But for now, if you live within driving distance of Carlsbad, CA, we’ve got a deal for you!

Here at eFrog Press, we see many of the same issues when we work with writers on developmental editing. With a little information, some coaching, and a bit of revision, authors are able to transform their books into well-written titles ready for the next phase of publication—copyediting.

Our workshops are hands on!

Our workshops are hands on!

At our workshops, participants are encouraged to bring the first chapter of their book (fiction or nonfiction) so they can immediately apply what they learn. If your book is still in the conceptual stage, come with ideas for possibilities and we will help you take the next step.

On August 16, our morning session will focus on the craft of writing. Practical techniques for prewriting and revision will be introduced and put into practice. The presenters (all published authors) will illustrate each point with samples from their writing.

Good food supports good thinking so lunch will be catered by an experienced chef who specializes in healthy, delicious food. Lunch will also be a time to network with other writers. Afternoon sessions will focus on fiction or nonfiction—you choose! But more about that in next week’s post, or take a peek at our offerings at http://www.efrogpress.com/writersworkshops/. Better yet, register now while there is still space. Enrollment will be limited.

The September workshop will cover DIY indie publishing and teach you how to get big sales of your book on Amazon.  Early bird discount for August 16 workshop expires August 5. Early bird discount for September 13 workshop expires September 1.

Please share with us in the comments: What topics would you like to see in future workshops?

 

Clustering: A Prewriting Technique That Overcomes Writers’ Block

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

L.C. Scott is the founder of eFrog Press and an author. Her many years of teaching at the high school and university level and her freelance writing career have prepared her to lead a team of experts to guide both fledgling and experienced authors through the maze of indie publishing. Today on Take the Leap she shares a powerful technique for dispelling writers’ block and unlocking your creativity.

Clustering is a magical tool for writers of any age and genre. It’s a technique that frees the creative side of your brain to leap into action unhindered by rules of grammar and structure. Your creativity flows uninhibited and you can solve writing dilemmas that may have blocked you for days, months, or even years.

Clustering Based on Brain Research

Gabriele Rico discovered and named the concept of clustering when doing her doctoral research at Stanford University in the 1970s. Fascinated by reading the latest studies on brain research, she saw ways these new discoveries about how our brains work could be applied to writing. She had been teaching composition courses at San Jose State University and knew her students would benefit from this new knowledge. .

Writing the Natural WayIn 1983 she published Writing the Natural Way: Using Right-Brain Techniques to Release Your Expressive Powers. I was fortunate to hear her speak about clustering at a San Diego Area Writing Project workshop at the University of California San Diego shortly after its publication and have been applying her techniques ever since—as a writer, writing teacher, doctoral student, and editor.

Clustering works as well with second graders as it does with novelists.  During the workshop Dr. Rico shared that she struggled to organize the ideas for Writing the Natural Way until she realized she needed to practice what she preached. After months of trying to outline her book, she grabbed some large sheets of paper, got down on the floor with markers, and clustered her topics in just a few hours.

As Dr. Rico wrote:

Clustering is a nonlinear brainstorming process akin to free association. It makes a Design-mind process visible through a nonlinear spilling out of lightning associations that allows patterns to emerge. Through clustering we naturally come up with a multitude of choices from a part of our mind where the experiences of a lifetime mill and mingle. It is the writing tool that accepts wondering, not-knowing, seeming chaos, gradually mapping an interior landscape as ideas begin to emerge. [Writing the Natural Way, p. 28]

Clustering in Action

A student in my doctoral cohort a few years ago was almost hyperventilating as she discussed writing her dissertation. The more she talked about it, the more agitated she became. I knew she had a great topic and had done her research. All she needed to do was relax and write, but in her present state that was not going to happen. The dreaded ABD (All But Dissertation) loomed in her future if she did not conquer her nerves.

So I showed her how to cluster, gave her a blank piece of paper, and encouraged her to just try it. Once she had filled the page with circles and connecting arrows, I suggested she write a quick rough draft and that she write badly. Badly? She nearly shouted, “This is my dissertation!”

I replied, “I know. But trust me. I teach writing. Just get it down on paper first. Later you can revise until it is amazing. First, just write. Do not check spelling, punctuation, or word choice. No thesaurus, no dictionary. Just write and get it all out. Then you can clean it up.”

Although she was skeptical, she was also desperate. A dissertation was born and a doctoral degree was conferred.

How to Cluster

So when you are beginning a writing project, consider clustering. It is the most powerful form of prewriting I know.

1. Write a single word or phrase in the center of a blank sheet of paper and circle it. Dr. Rico calls this word or phrase the nucleus.

2. Let your thoughts flow and jot down every word that comes to mind around the first word.

3. Circle the new words and draw lines to connect. Focus on the new words and cluster around them too.

4. Continue to expand this web of words until you have run out of thoughts.

Why circles? Dr. Rico explains: “By its very nature the circle centers, focuses. . . . The circle implicitly suggests bringing into being, activating, animating the pattern-making forces of the creative process” [p. 42]. See sample clusters and the resulting vignettes.

I was saddened to learn recently that Dr. Rico died in March 2013. I have benefited greatly from her research and encourage other writers to discover the powerful technique of clustering. Tap into the creative side of your brain and dramatically improve your writing.

Please Share

What techniques have you used to overcome writers’ block?

Grammar Tips for Comparison

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

COMPARISONS

Life and literature are full of comparisons. Shakespeare’s sonnet posed the question, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate . . . ”

In the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the evil queen asks her looking glass, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of us all?” Sorry, Evil Queen—Snow White’s the fairest in the land. She’s superlative.

EvilQueenMirror

When using adjectives and some adverbs to compare, common bloopers can occur: more better, most fastest.

Let’s review. Comparisons have three degrees:

• positive (the basic form of the word)

• comparative (two things)

• superlative (more than two).

 

Positive                     Comparative                   Superlative

frizzy                           frizzier                                    frizziest

warm                          warmer                                   warmest

beautiful                    more beautiful                      most beautiful

 

Comparatives and superlatives often cause mistakes.

 

Comparatives

If you’re comparing two things, one to the other:

—Add an er ending or “more” or “less” to most one-syllable words:

younger, more/less young

wilder, more/less wild

denser, more/less dense

Of stock car racing and archery, archery seems safer (or more safe).

 

—With two-syllable words ending in y, drop the y and add er, or use “more” or “less” before the word:

(silly) sillier, more/less silly

(gaudy) gaudier, more/less gaudy

(zany) zanier, more/less zany

(muddy) muddier, more/less muddy

—With words of three or more syllables, use “more” or “less” before the word:

less bountiful                  more athletic            more intelligent

* Tip: You can also modify the comparative form with the adverb “much.”

Jackson Pollack’s paintings were much sloppier than those by Salvador Dalí.

 

Superlatives

To compare more than two things:

—Add the ending est to most one-syllable and some two-syllable words.

fastest                        shiniest          messiest        lightest           silliest

—Add “most” or “least” to some two-syllable and most three-syllable words:

most savvy    most skillful   least dangerous       least sour      least athletic

San Francisco is the least affordable city in California.

The late Tony Gwynn was the San Diego Padres’ most popular player.

 

Keeping Comparatives and Superlatives Straight

Comparing two things? Use er.

Comparing three things? Use est.

 

Comparison Pitfalls

Young/Old

Camilla is the younger of the two sisters. (not “youngest”)

The 1915 Rio is the oldest of our six antique cars. (not “older”)

Irregulars

Just as chameleons change color, irregular comparatives change forms.

Positive         Comparative            Superlative

good               better                          best

bad                 worse                         worst

 

—Doubling Up

Comparative: Use er or “more,” not both:

Gambling is either “riskier” or “more risky” never “more riskier” than Bingo.

 

Superlative: Use est or “most,” not both:

A gazelle is either the “most swift” or the “swiftest” of animals, never “the most swiftest.”

 

—Problem Words

You can’t add er or est to some adjectives, like “fun” or “false.”

Don’t say, My red glasses are “funner.” She had “falser” eyelashes than I did.

 

Please Share

That’s the scoop from the Grammar Patrol. You’ll find more on comparatives and superlatives in our zany Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar guides. Let us know when you hear bloopers of any kind, especially ones with comparisons. We love hearing from you.

Have a better-than-average day and a most delightful summer!

How Authors Can Use Word’s Track Changes to Review Editorial Suggestions

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

L.C. Scott is the founder of eFrog Press and an author. Her many years of teaching at the high school and university level and her freelance writing career have prepared her to lead a team of experts to guide both fledgling and experienced authors through the maze of indie publishing. Today on Take the Leap she shares how she explains the use of Word’s Track Changes for authors.

 

Word’s Track Changes tool is a wonderful resource for both editors and authors. It allows an editor to add comments into the document and also to make changes that the author can later review and accept or reject. But authors unfamiliar with this tool can be confused when they receive the book’s file with Track Changes implemented.

So, if you are an author new to this feature in Word, I am going to demystify the process of using Track Changes to respond to your copy editor’s comments and edits.

 

Viewing Edits in Track Changes

 Track ChangesToolbar

When you open your file in Word, the Track Changes should appear in your file. If you don’t see them, go to the Review Tab and click on the Track Changes button until it is highlighted in orange like the example above. Now your edits should appear in the document.

How to Use Track Changes to Review Editorial Suggestions

One of the easiest ways to use Track Changes is to go to Review Tab > Changes section (see far right in graphic above) and click the Next button. You will be taken to the first editing suggestion. Then you can click the Accept button with the blue checkmark or the Reject button in red.

From the drop-down arrow under both the Accept and the Reject buttons you will be given the option to move to the next edit. There are other options like right clicking on the edit itself, but I find the Accept/Reject buttons are the easiest way to move through a long document and view each suggestion from the editor.

  …Continue Reading

Today is the Anniversary of the Battle of New Market featured in new YA Novel “Shenandoah”

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Seasoned journalist and food blogger Laura Grouch interviewed author Nancy Johnson about the release of her new YA Civil War novel. To mark the anniversary of the Battle of New Market, Shenandoah, Daughter of the Stars will be a free ebook on Amazon today and tomorrow, May 15 and 16.

 

Even though it took place more than 150 years ago, author Nancy Johnson believes Americans of all ages would benefit from knowing more about the Civil War.

YA Civil War story featuring strong female characterThey especially need to know that young people also gave their lives in the struggle, as shown in her third book, Shenandoah: Daughter of the Stars (ebook $3.99; paperback $9.95). The Battle of New Market, which took place on May 15, 1864, in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, was notable for the participation of nearly 250 military cadetsthe youngest only age 15.

When Johnson was teaching grades four, five and six in California, she realized her students didn’t know much about the great War Between the States. “I wanted to spark an interest in a part of history that I believe is still influencing us today,” she said. “The divisions between North and South, conservative and liberal, black and white, are still an element of life in this country.”

Though she is a native Californian, her own roots reach back to Civil War days. Passed down in her family were letters from relatives, Union Army soldiers, who were in the midst of those battles and who described life during that time.

The Origins of Shenandoah

So when she was looking for a new project, her husband suggested, “Why don’t you go write a book?” Johnson decided to make use of her family history and do just that.

Her first young adult novel, My Brother’s Keeper, was set in the thick of the Civil War, from Northern Virginia to Gettysburg and back to Appomattox, drawing on a rich vein of family history and mementos.

She followed it up with A Sweet-Sounding Place, about Moses, a black youth from Massachusetts who encounters a runaway slave named Samantha.

Now comes the third in the trilogy, “Shenandoah: Daughter of the Stars,” which describes events from the viewpoint of Hannah, a Southern girl who nonetheless believes slavery is a great moral wrong.

Inspired by a visit to the Virginia Military Institute, Johnson weaves a battle fought by its young cadets alongside the Confederate Army into the story. The Battle of New Market was a victory for the Confederate Army. General John Breckinridge called on VMI’s cadets to fight Union soldiers. Forty-seven cadets were wounded, and 10 later died of their injuries. One of the characters in “Shenandoah,” Charlie, is a VMI cadet who is wounded in the battle.

“While doing research for the second book, we went to the Shenandoah Valley, and happened to be there on the day the Virginia Military Institute cadets did their re-enactment of the battle,” Johnson recalled. “Right then, I knew this would be the beginning of my third book.”

A Strong Heroine

Although most books about the Civil War have young male heroes, Johnson said, she wanted to tell this story from Hannah’s point of view.” She was just one of three characters at first. But girls need to know they had a part to play, too,” she said. …Continue Reading

Jesse Owens: Legendary Olympian

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

JudithJosephsonJudith Josephson loves to dig into the past and is fascinated by people’s lives. A former teacher, Judith Josephson has written stories, columns, and articles for children. Her award-winning biographies and history books include both nonfiction and fiction for children. Jesse Owens: Legendary Olympian is her most recent title.

In February, we celebrated African Americans. In addition, all eyes were trained on Sochi, Russia, where the Winter Olympics took place. Each day’s sports coverage featured athletes in blazingly colorful athletic outfits. Results of each competition were instantly photographed, tweeted, emailed, and recorded in real time on television. For more than a century, the Olympics, summer and winter, have represented the greatest athletic competition in the world, an event where months and years of training culminate in the best of the best, producing surprises, disappointments, and heroes.

1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin

Jesse OwensAt a very different Olympics seventy-seven years ago, the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, African American track and field star Jesse Owens won four gold medals, surprising the world and infuriating Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler, who called Owens and other African American teammates America’s “black legions.” Hitler’s close associate declared Jesse and his teammates unfit to compete with “human” athletes, akin to allowing a gazelle or a deer on the team.

Today’s Olympics are different in many ways, but similar in others. Olympic athletes have always trained hard to reach this pinnacle of sports. Jesse Owens had grown up in poverty, but had been training for this day since junior high and high school days, when he started breaking records for his age.  In college at Ohio State University, at a 1935 meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the space of forty-five minutes, he broke four world records.

Politics isn’t supposed to have a role in the Olympics. But in 1936, the Olympics unfolded against Hitler’s evil intents, racism in the U.S. and the gathering storm of World War II.  Since then, issues like the “Cold War,” “Human Rights Violations,”  America’s “Civil Rights Movement,” and “South Africa’s apartheid policies” have caused boycotts and affected outcomes.

Fresh-faced young people have always inspired those who watch the Olympics.  When Jesse Owens won the gold medal in the 100-meter race, he graciously thanked his Olympic hosts, saying that Berlin was “a beautiful place, a beautiful city.  The competition was grand.  But I was very glad to come out on top.”  Proudly, he wore the winner’s laurel wreath and saluted his flag. Jesse Owens had class. Similarly, earlier this year, American luger Kate Hansen, danced for the crowd and in spite of her 10th place finish, said, “I will be thankful for this moment the rest of my life.”

 

…Continue Reading

Need New Business Cards Now? What’s an Entrepreneur To Do?

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

L.C. Scott is the founder of eFrog Press and an author. Her many years of teaching at the high school and university level and her freelance writing career have prepared her to lead a team of experts to guide both fledgling and experienced authors through the maze of indie publishing. Today on Take the Leap she shares how she makes custom business cards to keep up with her rapidly changing business—DIY, of course!

 

Although I am a big fan of sites like Vistaprint and Moo Cards, I prefer to design and print my own business cards until I get the content and design just the way I want it. As an entrepreneur with a young business (2 ½ years old), I know things can change quickly.

Three days before a big networking event I realized my business cards were lacking. No time to order online, so I resorted to DIY.

Now I did have a cool logo to use. My brother-in-law is a wildlife artist and sketched a frog sitting on an iPad (instead of a lily pad). Perfect for eFrog Press, as we started out with a focus on creating ebooks. Never seen a frog with fingers? That’s a northern leopard frog or Lithobates pipiens. Really. Here’s proof.

eFrog Press Norther Leopard Frog

How to DIY Professional Business Cards

Don’t have a color laser printer and industrial paper cutter? No worries. You can still create professional looking business cards.

I love Avery’s linen cards. The rich texture gives a custom look to homemade cards. Also, Avery has greatly improved their perforation methods. No longer are your cards marred by little bumps that reveal to all that you punched them out of sheets of perforated cardstock. Avery’s Clean Edge business cards pop out with smooth, flawless edges. My personal favorite is Avery® Linen Textured Two-Sided Printable Clean Edge Business Cards for ink-jet printers.

The other feature I love is the printable backs. I was able to free up an increasingly crowded front side and list our services on the back. For a touch of color and to highlight our social media presence, I decorated the bottom edge with social media icons.

 

Business Card Content

Let’s talk about content. Of course you want logo, business name, and your name front and center—or at least front! Be sure to include your website so people can learn more about your business and remember why they have your card when they clean out their wallets.

BusinessCardFront

You want people to contact you, right? So why put your email and phone number in 7-point font? As I age my near vision fades, and I resent having to use a magnifying glass to read a phone number when there is plenty of white space for a bigger font!

As eFrog Press has evolved over the last 2 ½ years, it has been convenient to add new services to the back of the card. Of course, not all businesses have changed as much as publishing services in recent years, but all successful entrepreneurs sharpen their focus and need to update their business cards to reflect those changes.

BusCardBack2

Designing Your Business Cards

Avery provides templates but I just use Microsoft Word. Follow these steps to create your own business card using Word.  (I use Office 2010, so depending on the version of Word you are using, some of these steps may be different).

1. Click on Mailings tab (I know you’re not mailing anything but this is the secret location).

2. Click on Labels (top left).

3. Click on Options (bottom left of new window) and scroll through until you find the Product Number for the business card stock you are using. Mine are Avery #8873. Then click OK. …Continue Reading

Five Reasons Why an Ereader is the Best Book Club Companion

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

JuliaJulia Larson is a freelance copywriter and copyeditor. When she’s not on a quadrilateral device, she’s on her yoga mat, a hike, or a cooking spree.

 

If you’re a book club enthusiast, then an ereader is (or has already proved to be) your new best friend. From instant access to your new novel, an ereader enhances your book club experience from start to finish. Although I’ve only recently become a book club attendee, I’ve found that my Kindle Paperwhite is an invaluable asset.

Here are five reasons an ereader is your best book club companion:

1. Start reading almost instantly.bookclubMed

No need to wait for a book to arrive in the mail or travel to your library’s shelves. You can easily download your ebook as soon as that month’s book is announced. And you’ll be extra thrilled when the book you want is downloadable for free from your library’s ebook collection.

Pro tip: If you know the lineup of your club’s reading, check out your library’s ebook collection early. That way you can put holds on any popular titles.

 

2. Highlight sections you want to discuss.

Sure, you can highlight in a traditional book, but with an ereader, your highlights are aggregated for easy access. Never again will you flip through your book with frustration, searching for that one page…

And don’t forget to take notes on those highlighted sections to share with your reading buddies!

 

3. Take copious notes.

An ereader’s ability to catalogue your notes is a huge boon to your reading experience—and even your vocabulary. Instead of flipping through all your pages or carrying along a notebook, you can seamlessly integrate your note-taking with your reading. For detailed instructions on how to highlight and take notes with a Kindle Touch, view this YouTube.

Later on, when you’re in your book club’s discussion, you can easily recall what excerpts & questions you want to bring up. (This is also awesome for the discussion leader of the group.)

 

4. Easily look up passages.

While a book club that relies on page numbers could lead to some frustration, the easy keyword lookup on an eReader counteracts it. If someone gives you a word or two that appears in the section, you can quickly see all the places it occurs in your novel. Additionally, there are certain ebooks (like The Light Between Oceans) that sync the traditional book’s pages with the ebook version.

 

For illuminated/backlit ereaders:

5. Comfortably read indoors & outdoors.

During my book club, I’m sometimes in the shade and sometimes in direct sunlight. Either way I can simply adjust the brightness on my Paperwhite. Of course the lighting is a major advantage throughout your ereading, from the moment you download your ebook to your club’s meeting.

 

Comment with your input!

Are you an avid ebook reader in a book club? What other advantages have you noticed with your ereader?

 

The Grammar Patrol Explains The Job of Conjunctions: Linking

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

You know the term “ear worm,” right? It’s when a song gets lodged in your brain and plays over and over. We’ve been hearing “Conjunction Junction” while planning this month’s column.

 

Can you bring up the song “Conjunction junction—what’s your function?” in your mind? Good old Schoolhouse Rock. Those of us of a certain age learned all about conjunctions singing those jaunty lyrics.

 

If conjunctions puzzle you, get the inside story for their “link with” meaning:

con = with

junct (and join, jug) = join, meet, link

(Think of some words from this cool root! See sampling at end of post.)

 

Conjunctions are words that link groups of words or parts of sentences.

 

pretzelOn April 26, National Pretzel Day, we can say this:

 

• Doughnuts and croissants are jealous of pretzels.

[conjunction]

 

That little “and” does the job of linking doughnuts with croissants.

Other common conjunctions:

as, because, but, if, or, since, so, than, though, unless, while

 

Since it’s April 26, I’ll celebrate with homemade pretzels.

[conjunction]

 

• The Jolly Green Giant is taller than the Hulk.

[conjunction]

 

Tip: If the Hulk is speaking, he’d say, “The Jolly Green Giant is taller than I.”

(Use I, not me. “Taller than I am” is implied.)

 

There used to be a hard and fast rule about some conjunctions, as in: Don’t start a sentence with “and” or “but.” This rule has relaxed. It’s fine to start occasionally with these conjunctions. Just do it sparingly. (Avoid this usage in formal writing, such as a legal contract or a thesis.)

 

And Jeannie’s prank made the best April Fool’s joke ever.

But who really ate all those pretzels?

…Continue Reading

5 Things Authors Should Know About the Increase in Ereading

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Unknown ReaderThe Unknown Reader blogs monthly about all things ebook.  Naturally, she has strong opinions about her reading material and her ereading devices. Currently, she is partial to her Kindle Paperwhite. We met with the Unknown Reader to capture a portrait of her in front of a mosaic in Solana Beach, CA, doing what she does best–reading! Naturally, she is a voracious reader and today she shares the latest study from the Pew Research Internet Project on the increase in ereading devices–one of the Unknown Reader’s favorite things!

 

The Pew Research  Internet Project reliably supplies us with tons of quality stats, and figuring out what they mean for you is key. Let’s take a look at their latest release to see what the numbers are saying for ebook authors and readers in the US.

Here are the top five takeaways from Pew’s 2013 ereading snapshot:

 

1) 4% of adults only read ebooks.

While ebook reading continues to grow, people hesitate to go digital-only. If you’re an indie ebook author, consider also printing copies of your book. The higher quality print-on-demand options now make creating print titles as affordable as creating ebooks.

 

 

2) 8% more adults have tablets and another 8% now have ereaders, thanks to the 2013 Holiday Season.

BusDriverFrom September 2013 to January 2014, adults with tablets went from 34% to 42%, and adults with ereaders went from 24% to 32%.

 

More people are ready to read ebooks on the go. I think the lower ebook-reading-on-computers stats suggest that mobility is key to ereadership, and reading ebooks on computers is going to keep declining. I even read on my phone.

 

3) 47% of young adults (18-29) have read an ebook in the last year.

This stat is an impressive climb from 31% in November 2012. And 2014 heralds the year that adults 18-29 surpass the 30-49 crowd, which only increased 1%, from 41% to 42%.

 

Why have these number climbed? Considering holiday gifts of ereaders and required educational ebooks for school, I’d guess there are plenty of reasons that young adults are ereading. Do you agree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

 

4) 93% of women have read an ebook on their ereader in the past year — versus 77% of men.

Interestingly, women gravitate towards their dedicated ereading devices more so than men who own an ereader.

 

While we can have a long discussion that includes references to the classic Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, I think the difference in ereading between men and women is an important one to note. Does the ebook or ereader industry target women more than men — or simply appeal more to them?

 

(As totally anecdotal evidence, I can only call to mind Kindle ads and product pages with women holding the device. What have you noticed in ebook and ereader marketing?)

 

5) 55% of tablet owners read ebooks on them — a big jump from 23% in 2011.

Despite the bright screens, tablets are now key ebook reading platforms. This means that the statistic in #2 of this list is quite significant: The increase in tablet ownership should mean an increase in ebook reading overall.

 

Seeing the percentage more than double since 2011 forces me to admit that e-ink isn’t a priority for everyone. As much as I love it, I also know how convenience can trump many factors. That said, I hope a hybrid e-ink tablet will emerge in the not-so-distant future.

 

 

Please Comment

Thoughts on these stats—and the conclusions I drew from them? Let me know what you think in the comments! I’m eager to hear your insights on the ereading world.

 

A Suspenseful & Sobering Eco-Thriller: A Review of The Glass Sky

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Unknown ReaderThe Unknown Reader blogs monthly about all things ebook.  Naturally, she has strong opinions about her reading material. We met with the Unknown Reader to capture a portrait of her in front of a mosaic in Solana Beach, CA, doing what she does best–reading! Naturally, she is a voracious reader and today she shares her reactions to an ebook she read that has caused lots of discussion. Keep reading to find out what the Unknown Reader thinks of The Glass Sky.

Tired of slow-moving plots? Sick of forgetting to finish that ebook that chronically sinks to the bottom of your “to read” list? Then you’ll be pleased to find out that The Glass Sky by Niko Perren is not a snooze fest. Though I didn’t read the book very quickly, the unfinished narrative kept me itching for resolution.

TheGlassSkyCoverThe story follows two main characters: Tania Black, an American scientist who’s unexpectedly thrown into a dangerous job as the UN’s Chief Biospherist,  and Tian Jie, a Chinese engineer who might know how to obstruct the intensifying sunlight — and buy Earth time to clean up its act. While Tania battles political schemes and scrambles to grassroots organize, Jie hurries to develop the planet-saving shield technology.

You’ll see a convincing picture of the political backhanding, close-call manhunts, and weather catastrophes. As addictive as the action can be, this global-climate-change saga borders on going overboard. Sure, the intertwining plots are gripping and offer a cliffhanger at every turn, but how much action and how many cliffhangers are too much?

If the sheer amount of edge-of-your-seat action deters you, I’ll bet you’ll still enjoy the staging in the year 2050, which features many predictive technologies, world crises, and political maneuvers. While the imagined tech was hard to picture at times, Perrin usually provides enough context to convey its purpose and appearance. Seriously, folks, if you’re like me, a sucker for Wired and FastCo articles on the world to come, you’ll get a kick out of Perrin’s evolution of Google Glass, smartphones, cars, and more.

…Continue Reading

13 Word Jumbles Writers Can Avoid to Prevent Embarrassing Bloopers

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers. 

 

Man with bucket and cleaning suppliesSpring House Cleaning—Easy Mix-Ups

Time to dust off your grammar and mop up those bloopers. Here’s another baker’s dozen of easily confused word pairs.

 

1. AMONG, BETWEEN

Conventional wisdom used to call for using the preposition “between” with two, and using the preposition “among” with more than two.

• Jake forced me to choose between Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

• Jake forced me to choose among Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli.

This rule is relaxing, but do use “between” in one-to-one or direct relationships. Hint: Use “and,” not “or,” to connect the two words:

• He juggles a balancing act between work and family.

Use “among” when the relationship is less specific, broader.

Among the many descendents of Johann Sebastian Bach, four became musicians.

“Don’t use “amongst” or “whilst” unless you are writing a period piece.

 

2. BOTH, EACH

The words “both” and “each” can be used as adjectives or pronouns.

Use “both” when it applies to two words.

Both Steve Jobs and Donald Duck liked bow ties.

Use “each” as an adjective when it applies to one word.

Each Rose Bowl float is unique.

 

3. BRING, TAKE

Use a “come, go” analogy to help remember these two. “Come” is like “bring.” “Go” is like “take.” Is the action coming toward you?” If so, use “bring.” If the action is away from you, use “take.”

• Please bring me this hot cocoa. (Come to me with the cocoa.)

Take toilet paper to the outhouse. (Go re-supply the outhouse.)

  …Continue Reading

How Kindles can improve your vocabulary with the Dictionary Look-Up Feature

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

JuliaJulia Larson is a freelance copywriter & copyeditor. When she’s not on a quadrilateral device, she’s on her yoga mat, a hike, or a cooking spree.

Fantods. Reglets. Circumorals. Kliegs. Boscages. These are just a sampling of the many vocab words I’ve highlighted in Infinite Jest. How many of us actually go back and look up those difficult words that we encounter — especially during an engrossing read?

Honestly, when reading print books, I’d rarely go back and research those noggin-scratchers. Here’s why my Kindle Paperwhite’s Dictionary Look-up Feature has revolutionized my reading:

1. It’s a (relatively) seamless experience.

When using my Kindle Paperwhite, I hardly interrupt my reading to satisfy my lexical curiosity. Keep in mind that the feature does take a moment to pop up (compared to the speed of current mobile devices).

KindleDictionary2. It’s interactive.

I find that my kinesthetic and visual learning is very happy with the ability to touch the screen and see the dictionary screen pop up. If you’re using a touchscreen eReader, simply holding your finger down on the word brings up the dictionary preview, plus the option to highlight or read the full definition. This interaction still leaves me in awe (and I thought I was dumbstruck by typing into the original Kindle’s dictionary!).

3. It’s highlightable & catalogued.

My favorite part: You simply highlight that word, and you can return to your “Notes” section later and revisit your vocab collection.

You see, when I read from paper books, I’ll wield a pen, either circling the unknown word in the text, or keeping track elsewhere (usually on a sorry scrap of paper-turned-bookmark). Both these methods take much more time & effort.

4. It’s easy to add variety.

You can download all sorts of dictionaries and toggle between different options that you download. One eReader feature I’d like to see is the smart, automatic assignment of one of your dictionaries to each book, or a prompt to download the dictionary that’d best match the era and diction of the text.

5. It’s not bulky.

The eReader is already lightening your book-toting load, and the dictionary (or as many dictionaries as you want to download), add no extra weight or bulk. After all, who has that much room to spare in your backpack, purse, or car for the big Oxford editions that your eReader holds effortlessly?

It’s still our job to do the learning.

Although the dictionary look-up is supremely helpful, most of us probably don’t thoroughly absorb those words we look up (and highlight), except for those fortunate souls with photographic memory. I’ve had some words come to mind when writing (e.g., “simpering”) and have run into them elsewhere, but when it comes to memorizing and utilizing the whole breadth of words I’ve found, I need to be proactive. My belated New Years resolution? To start writing up that bevy of vocab flashcards!

Please share

But before I get started (Note: I didn’t resolve to not procrastinate), I want to ask our readers: What’s your favorite way to solidify and memorize the words you want to add to your vocabulary?

Mispronunciations—Written Words, Spoken Words

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

Have you ever heard someone say “guh NOME” instead of “nome” for the word gnome? We’ve all had those moments.

gnomeHere’s a true tale told by a student from our days teaching a one-day grammar refresher through San Diego State University Extension. An English prof—engaging, funny, full of intriguing information—frequently read aloud to his students. One day, introducing Robert Frost, he read, “ . . . Then for the house that is no more a house/But only a ‘be-lilaced’ cellar hole/. . .”

“Excuse me, sir,” said a guy. “Might ‘belly-laced’ perchance be ‘be-lilaced,’ as in wreathed in lilacs?”

Sometimes when a person misspeaks, it’s cringe-inducing. At a solemn memorial service for a prominent citizen, a grieving friend read a poem about crossing the chasm, but three times pronounced the “ch” in chasm as in chair, rather than saying “KA sm.”

Edith grew up hearing and saying “ascertain,” “sword,” and “colonel” correctly. But when reading these words in books, they sounded in her head like “uh SIR tan,” “sword” with the “w,” and “CAH luh nul,” as in her book, The Little Colonel. To her, these were six words, not three.

Everyone has examples of words they’ve pronounced incorrectly for years.

The state of Illinois is “Il lih NOY,” not “Il lih NOISE.” Hyperbole is “high PER buh lee,” not “HIGH per bowl.” Epitome is “eh PIH tuh mee,” not “EH pih tome.” The Army Corps of Engineers is the “core,” not “corpse” of engineers.

Those who sell houses and properties are “REE uhl ters,” not “REAL uh ters.” There’s no “real” in realtor. Neither is there a “cue” in nuclear. Say, “NU clee er,” not “NU cue ler.” This month is not “FEB you air ee.” Note the “r.” We salute our sweeties on “FEB roo air ee” fourteenth.

Your chic outfit isn’t “chick.” It’s “sheek.” When seeking respite from onerous chores, you look for “RES pit,” not “re SPITE.” That diamond necklace isn’t “JOO la ree.” It’s “JOOL ree.” “Drowned” is just one syllable. “Drown-ded” is egregious.

 

Measurement Words

Take care with measurement words. For height, say, “hite,” not “hithe.” For length, say “lengkth,” not “lenth.” For width, say the “d” in width, not “with.”

Some mispronounced words can be funny. Some people call the famous pie place Marie Colander’s (“COLL enders”—so handy for rinsing pie berries) rather than the correct Marie Callender’s (“CAL enders”).

A radio announcer said, “Let this music of Beethoven envelope you.” She read the word envelop (“en VEH lup”) as “envelope” (“EN veh lope””). Likewise, if you witness a clash of wills, pronounce the word conflict as “CON flict.” But if your views differ from another’s, say “con FLICT.”

Here’s one final example encompassing the whole kit and caboodle of this topic. You “pronounce” or “mispronounce” a word. But the very word mispronunciation is often pronounced wrong! The word “pronounce” does not lurk within. Say, “mis pro nun see A tion.” Both pronunciation and mispronunciation have “nun,” not “noun” in the middle.

May we commend to you The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations: The Complete Opinionated Guide for the Careful Speaker by Charles Harrington Elster. It’s funny. It’s thorough. You can even learn from the cover: “There is no . . . ‘berry’ in ‘library,’ no ‘store’ in ‘pastoral,’ no ‘ant’ in ‘defendant,’ no ‘x’ in ‘espresso,’ and no ‘home’ in ‘homicide.’ ”

For a more complete list of commonly mispronounced words, see pp. 157-160 of our More Nitty-Gritty Grammar guide.

ValentinePlease Share

Do send the mispronunciations you grew up with. Happy Valentine’s (not “Valentime’s”) Day! We love to hear from you.

 

How to give a bookstore reading in 9 easy steps

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

L. C. Scott is the founder of eFrog Press and an author. Her many years of teaching at the high school and university level and her freelance writing career have prepared her to lead a team of experts to guide both fledgling and experienced authors through the maze of indie publishing. Today on Take the Leap she reflects on what makes a great bookstore reading. 

 

A Fall of MarigoldsAuthors can take a page from Susan Meissner’s book when planning a book talk. Yesterday her newest book, A Fall of Marigolds, was released and she spoke at a local independent bookstore, Warwick’s in La Jolla, California.

I have heard dozens of authors speak about their books. For over a decade I worked behind the scenes on large English teacher conferences and we had many amazing speakers: Isabel Allende, Gail Tsukiyama, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Kathleen Krull, Anne Lamott, Michael Chabon, and more. I have learned from some of the best what works—and what doesn’t work—in an author’s talk.

Here is what Susan Meissner did right.

1. Be approachable

Susan was very approachable before her presentation. No diva here. She mingled, hugged, and chatted.

2. Have food

Cookies! She provided cookies from the cultures represented in her book including Polish and Italian.

3. Connect with your audience

Susan spoke informally at the beginning about other book talks she had attended and what she planned to do that evening. She introduced her high school English teacher, Frank Barone, to whom the book is dedicated [Full disclosure, many moons ago, Susan was in my English class for one semester]. She honored Frank for helping her find her voice as a writer and the audience loved it.

4. Give your audience inside information

Susan elaborated on how the book took shape and let her audience in on the back story. Her title evolved from a dark, depressing one to A Fall of Marigolds and she shared the evolution with us. You could also share your writing process.

5. Act like you want to be there

Susan appeared relaxed and delighted to be with us. Of course, the local audience was filled with friends, family, and ardent readers.

6. Choose reading passages carefully

Choose reading passages that highlight your writing style and illustrate earlier remarks. The selected readings were not long but tied in beautifully with her discussion of her book and showcased her prowess with the written word. The audience was dazzled.

7. Take time to reflect as you answer questions

Susan answered questions thoughtfully and patiently. How many books has she written? 15! What does she do when she gets writers block. She backs up a chapter and writes around the wall. If that doesn’t work, she backs up further. Then she gave an example from an earlier book. Audiences love examples.

8. Give something away

Susan held a drawing. As she spoke she passed around a bowl of paper slips and we wrote our names, folded them, and passed the bowl along. No fuss, no muss. At the very end, she drew names. The prizes included marigold earrings, a $25 gift certificate to the bookstore, and a free copy of her new book if you bought one at the bookstore. She explained that she valued independent bookstores and didn’t want to undermine them in any way so it was BOGO!

9. Engage readers during book signing

Full disclosure, it was late and I did not join the long line, but Gail Tsukiyama epitomizes what an author should do. After meeting with a very long line of readers, she still smiled, looked directly at the reader, paused before signing, and engaged in brief conversation. Everyone in her very long line went home feeling special. She gained readers for life. As an author you have been writing to get readers, so when you have the opportunity to meet them, make the most of it. What’s your hurry?

…Continue Reading

My publishing journey writing historical fiction

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Richard FitchenRichard Fitchen, BA MA MLIS PhD, was a firefighter and National Guardsman before teaching at the University of Washington and the University of California (Berkeley and Santa Barbara). He served as the social sciences bibliographer in Yale University’s Libraries and retired as bibliographer and reference department head at the Stanford University Libraries. He now writes full time and enjoys traveling with family.

 

Publishing electronically rather than in traditional print seemed a smart choice to me, like online retail versus newspaper ads.  Then Linda at eFrog Press explained the print-on-demand option.  Voilà, the best of both worlds!  When I met Linda, I mentioned projects in which I had participated to convert paper bound information to electronic files ranging from cutting-edge scientific journals to archives of the World Trade Organization.  She made the connection:  give readers of my fiction the same advantages!   I had tried putting up an electronic file but with no more success than I found earlier sending material to print publishers.  Now with editorial and technical guidance by Linda and her expert staff, my new book is properly launched.

United by Covenant, Ben’s America is the first of five books to be published in a series called An American Saga.  Three of the remaining four volumes are already in draft form, and we anticipate publishing at least two in 2014.  It helps to have design and layout decisions already set for the series by volume one!

United by Covenant: Ben's StoryI began writing United by Covenant because I could not bear to change a very long but personally cherished prequel.  The prequel rivals books like Hawaii and Shogun in length and complexity, and many letters to editors/agents plus meetings at a writers’ conference convinced me no publisher would undertake such a leviathan tome from an unknown author.  No doubt, I’m not the first to be consumed by unsalable abundance of creativity!  The prequel was polished occasionally and given ever better titles, but in the end a fresh start was needed.

Fortunately, the prequel experience helped enormously in writing United by Covenant, in many ways allowing me to learn from experience.  Writing it was very satisfying (ditto its sequel), perhaps partly because the project was planned from the very outset to comprise five volumes.

My previous career in American universities required highly developed research skills and a depth of subject knowledge, and I’ve drawn deeply on both to produce this title.  Its central character rises above the story’s dramatic fray to articulate the political faith that unifies partisan and cultural antagonists in America.  The covenant of American life reaches a peak of success in preserving the union through civil war, massive immigration, and sweeping industrial transformation.

United by Covenant is FREE today and tomorrow

After years of researching and writing, it is exciting to see my book come to life both as a print and ebook version. In my first attempt to connect with readers of historical, especially American, fiction, I am making my book free today and tomorrow, January 29 and 30. Please spread the word, download the Kindle ebook, and post a review. I wrote the book to make U.S. history as interesting to readers as I have always found it, and the best way I know is through story. So if you enjoy United by Covenant, standby as more volumes are coming soon in this American Saga.

Why authors should read Mitch Joel’s Ctrl Alt Delete and Reboot Their Lives

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

L. C. Scott is the founder of eFrog Press and an author. Her many years of teaching at the high school and university level and her freelance writing career have prepared her to lead a team of experts to guide both fledgling and experienced authors through the maze of indie publishing. Today on Take the Leap she reflects on a book she can’t stop thinking about—the very best kind!

 

Reboot your business and your lifeI don’t usually reread books, unlike my daughter who has read Harry Potter countless times, but for Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends on It, I made an exception. I found it as I scoped out the techy section at my local library. Great title—had to pick it up. As I began reading, it became obvious that this book was not just for businesses—it was for new authors, especially indie authors. Of course, that makes sense because successful indie authors view their writing as a business and understand that writing a great book is just the first half of the process—marketing is the second half.

Because sales and marketing do not come naturally to many authors, I knew Mitch Joel’s advice would be enlightening. As president of Twist Image (an innovative digital marketing company) and author of Six Pixels of Separation, he has much to reveal about the present and future of business and especially marketing. As I read through the print copy of his book, I inwardly lamented that I did not have a digital version so I could highlight important sections (Do you do that? More on sharing ebook comments in a future post!). As it was a library book, I could not use a highlighter to flag quotes I wanted to read again, and I was too caught up in reevaluating my business and marketing my book in new ways to stop and type up these gems. Then as I began the last section of the book, I realized I had to own it. I had to buy the ebook. I needed to reread this book and digest Joel’s predictions and revelations. Renewing the library book just did not give me enough time.

I also knew I had to blog about it so authors struggling with the marketing part could share these insights into the changing marketplace and ignore the time and money intensive approaches that used to work (or did they?).

Blogging and Tweeting and Facebooking, Oh My!

Blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking and more take time away from your writing so you need to think carefully about which channels to use and how to use them. Read our social media marketing posts here on Take the Leap to find some great how-to posts on different channels but remember less is more. Where do your readers hang out online? That’s where you want to be. Joel says:

The true opportunity going forward is for your business to develop a direct relationship with our consumers.

Read that statement again and substitute “you” for “your business” and “readers” for “consumers.” Got it? As Joel goes on to emphasize, it is not about how many followers you have but about relationships. How do you develop quality relationships? Joel advises:

Find and nurture your true fans. Your heavy users.  As that relationship delivers, they will become evangelists for you and you will begin to experience the network effect.

Evangelists–got to love it! Let your true fans, your passionate readers spread the word for you. Think about how to nurture a direct relationship with readers and never again will you tweet “Buy my book.”

An Indie Author Learns to Tweet

sllipsonLast week I spoke with an indie author just dipping her toe into social media. I read through her recent Tweets and was amazed by the back and forth with several of her followers. She was genuine, friendly, and enthusiastic as she connected with her new followers and began relationships with an agent and a well-established author. She was concerned that she did not have many followers yet, but I was dazzled by the quality of the relationships she was developing just by being herself in this new-to-her environment. Since mid-September she has over 800 tweets and 203 followers, but I expect her follower count to grow exponentially as people discover a writing teacher and indie author with something to say and a willingness to share. Curious? Check out @SLLipson on Twitter.

So follow Mitch Joel’s advice for this year and ask, “What does your reboot look like?” Not sure? Read the book and get inspired.

Please Share

How have you nurtured relationships with readers and potential readers?

Writing Dates and Abbreviations: What are the rules?

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

The Grammar Patrol We (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

Dates and Abbreviations

What’s the Date?

 

dreamstime_xs_33388245It’s a brand new year, a good time to review how to write dates. Dates can bring about a comma conundrum.

The Basics

When writing a full date, not just a year in a sentence, follow it with a comma:

• On December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela, a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist died.

 

Skip the final comma when listing only the month and year:

• Our North Woods adventure of July 2013 included a tornado, fabulous food, a canoe tipover, but great fishing!

 

And what to do about bothersome add-ons, such as “st,” “nd, “rd, and “th”?

When a date appears after a month, don’t add st, nd, rd, th:

• The wedding was August 12, 2013 (not August 12th, 2013).

 

Only use those add-ons when they precede the month.

• Their wedding was on the 12th of August.

• The fourth season of Downton Abbey premiered in America on January 5.

 

Use no commas when the date comes before the month, as is often the case in writing that’s academic or for the military:

• The scientific findings were published 16 January 2014.

 

Say it Short!

Abbreviations are shortened versions of words. Some—called acronyms—can be pronounced as a word, such as “NATO” for North Atlantic Treaty Organization.” Others—called initialisms—are read letter by letter, such as “AAUW” for American Association of University Women or “IRS,” (yikes!) for Internal Revenue Service.

Use only abbreviations that are easily understood by your readers. The first time you use an abbreviation, write out what it stands for; follow it with the abbreviation in parentheses:

• Edith and Judith belong to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Our San Diego SCBWI chapter meets monthly.

When a sentence ends with an abbreviation, use only one period:

• Our class read the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. (not King, Jr..).

Abbreviations are used frequently in parenthetical citations, notes, and bibliographies. Use them as little as possible in the body of your writing.

Many abbreviations use periods. Over time, the periods have been dropped from some abbreviations, especially with the names of organizations.

 

Here are some common abbreviations:

a.d. or A.D. (with or without periods) means “in the year of the Lord,” from the Latin anno Domini. The a.d. goes before the year: a.d. 1066.

a.m. or a.m. means “ante meridiem”—before noon. Use a.m. with numerals, not words:

• 4:45 a.m. (not four forty-five a.m.)

TIP: Use words, not numerals, with the word “o’clock”:

six o’clock (not 6 o’clock)

b.c. or B.C. means “before Christ.” In naming a specific year, the b.c. goes after the year: 274 b.c.

e.g. from the Latin exempli gratia (“for the sake of example”). It means “for example.” After “e.g.,” list your specific examples. Put a comma before and a comma or colon after the abbreviation e.g.:

• Bring one clown prop, e.g., rubber nose, huge shoes, squirting flower.

etc. from the Latin et cetera, meaning “and so forth.” Since “et” means “and,” don’t write “and etc.” Don’t use “etc.” after a series that begins with “such as.”

ibid. (pronounced “IH bid”) The abbreviation ibid. means “in the same book or passage.” From a bibliography:

Conroy Pat, The Water Is Wide, New York: Bantam Books, page 43.

Ibid., page 87. [This cites The Water Is Wide, but a different page number.]

i.e. from the Latin id est, means “that is.” This abbreviation explains. Put a comma before and a comma or a colon after i.e.

• The 30-meter three-legged dash was the penultimate race, i.e., the second to last.

p., pp. The abbreviation “p.” stands for “page”; “pp.” stands for “pages.” Use only in citations, notes, and bibliographies. Don’t use “pg.” or “pgs.,” even if your word processor tries to insist.

p.m. or p.m. means “post meridiem”—after noon.

PS stands for postscript. (Note: Use no periods.) Use it for an additional thought at the end of a letter.

• PS Your birthday present’s in the mail.

vs. or vs The abbreviation “vs.” stands for “versus”: Bruins vs. Trojans. But in most cases, use the word versus, rather than the abbreviation. (In the language of law, a single “v.” is used for “versus”: Brown v. the Board of Education.)

For more about dates and abbreviations, see pp. 9–12 of More Nitty-Gritty Grammar or pp. 86–87 of Nitty-Gritty Grammar.

That’s the long and short of it. Stay tuned for another grammar grabber—this one on mispronunciations—in February.

5 Reasons to Give an Ebook as a Holiday Gift

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Unknown ReaderThe Unknown Reader opines about how to gift ebooks this holiday season. Although she hides her face behind her Kindle, the Unknown Reader never hides her opinions. Read on to learn why ebooks make the ideal holiday gift!

Cyber Monday might be a distant, foggy memory. At this point, you probably hate to think about any more holiday planning or browse Amazon & eBay yet again. But, if you need to (or if there are also winter birthdays to shop for), there’s the instantly-delivered digital gift of an ebook.

I’m all for giving ebooks as gifts because it’s . . .

1. Convenient

Though shopping burnout happens by this point in December, shopping for ebooks is relatively painless. View some excerpts, read some reviews, and find the ebook that your recipient will enjoy. Even the iBookstore has caught on and added ebook gifts this season.

2. Easier on the budget

While convenience is a main reason to go for ebooks, it’s also a matter of budgeting. A good ebook can easily cost under $15—and incur zero shipping & handling fees, which can mean huge savings compared to one- or two-day shipping. Giving an ebook also means that you don’t have to disclose how much you’re spending on the gift, as you would with a gift card.

3. Easier on the environment

Giving an ebook means one less thing to feel guilt over this holiday season. Without sending any packages on trucks, packing gifts in plastic, or giving something that will someday end up in a landfill, you can feel great about your choice of gift. (And you don’t spend gas money going to a bookstore or resources to wrap a traditional book!)

4. Thoughtful

With any book, it’s clearly the thought that counts and expresses your unique connection with the recipient. When you know what a person will really spend their time reading, or a topic that you two share, an ebook is a great gift. (And you’ll know them well enough to know what device to buy the ebook for!)

5. Not tricky to learn how           

Starting a new gift giving tradition can be daunting. That’s why it’s key to find some great how-to’s.

Check out these guides to begin:

  • How to give ebooks via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, Kobo, and Sony’s Reader Store (videos)
  • How to give ebooks via Amazon, B&N, iBookstore, Kobo, and All Romance Books/OmniLit (text)
  • How to use QR codes to give free Project Gutenberg books on gift labels, cards, etc. (text & screenshots)

Ebook Suggestions for Last-Minute Gifts

‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas

Christmas_cover_150This fun take on the classic ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is a great gift for families, kids, parents, but especially moms worn down by the demands of the season! Sit by your fireplace (where the stockings are hung) and sip egg nog as you order from Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, or iTunes (Read Aloud version). Perfect for Christmas!

View book trailer starring Malcolm in the Middle’s Jane Kaczmarek and read interview with Mrs. Saint Nick about her featured role in this fun book.

 

Bloody Lessons: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery

Great Christmas giftHave a friend who loves mysteries or historical fiction? Bloody Lessons: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery by M. Louisa Locke is both–a cozy mystery set in Victorian San Francisco. This is the third book in the series so you could gift the first title, Maids of Misfortune, but Bloody Lessons is a great read and gives enough context to be read first. Especially  fun for teachers! The author is a retired history professor who knows the Victorian period well.

 

Unveiling

Multicutlural literary romance Saudi ArabiaNeed a gift for a friend who likes more recent history, stories about other cultures, or a bit of romance? We have the perfect new title–Unveiling by S. Woffington. The heroine, Sara, is passionate about art and her culture’s ancient traditions but flees her sheltered family life to live in America and pursuit her art. Two men follow and she faces two possibilities for her future. The author lived in Saudia Arabia and her love for the country and people shine through.

View the book trailer and read what S. Woffington blogged about this new title.

 

 

 Dear Ann, Dear Mary: A Correspondence of Grief and Friendship

A Correspondence of Grief and FriendshipBut what to get for your friend who is grieving and dreading the holidays? The friend who cannot bear to hear one more “Ho, ho, ho!” or another “Merry Christmas!” Dear Ann, Dear Mary is the ideal gift. Written by Ann Carli and Mary Scherr as they struggled to cope with the deaths of their husbands, these two women documented their journey in an email correspondence full of wisdom and even humor as they supported each other. This honest book has already helped others. Here is a recent review from a reader: “Touching, heartfelt and theraputic for a person who had lost a loved one. Highly recommended. I bought 5 copies, two as digital books to share with friends.”

Authors Ann Carli and Mary Scherr blogged about their book.

 

Are you giving ebooks this season?

If so, what’s your main reason for going the ebook route? And don’t forget to check out ereaders to give as gifts this year, too :)

Uh-Oh! A Year-End Grammar Pop Quiz!

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

The Grammar Patrol We (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

Heads up! Sharpen those number two pencils. Time for a pop quiz covering previous Grammar Patrol columns.

popquiz

Puzzled? Click on the links to our 2013 blog posts with more info for each question.

Can you spot the errors in these sentences in less than a minute?

On your mark. Get set. Go!

1. Felix was the man who Oscar called.

Who or Whom? A Writer’s Dilemma

2. Your help means a lot to my friend and I.

Put Out a BOLO [Be on the Lookout] on Pronoun Agreement

3. My favorite show is “The Big Bang Theory.”

The Italics vs. Quotes Debate

4. Sign: Holiday Wreath’s, $10

Apostrophes: Flowers or Weeds?

5. Magazine Cover: Let the Caribbean Peak your Interest.

Going on Blooper Patrol

6. “I feel nauseous,” said LaVon, who overindulged on Thanksgiving.

A Baker’s Dozen of Word Switcheroos

7. A musician must practice their instrument.

Put out a Bolo [Be on the Lookout] on Pronoun Agreement

8. My sweet Jonathan can be a rebel rouser.

Idioms, Malapropisms and Other Funny Expressions

9. Romeo’s and Juliet’s romance was doomed.

Apostrophes: Flowers or Weeds?

10. Who made this song famous—“Hello Dolly?”

Quotation Mark Questions? Think Symphony Orchestra.

11. Galloping around the corner, the castle loomed on the hill.

Dangling Participial Phrases Can Cause Confusion

12. Luella was on a journey of self discovery to become more well-rounded.”

Hyphens: Part I and II

How did you do? (You’re not being graded!)

Here are the fixes for these common errors:

1. whom  2. me  3. Big Bang Theory (italicized)  4. wreaths  5. Pique (Tip: Check out peek, peak, pique.)  6. nauseated  7. his or her, depending on musician’s gender.  8. rabble  9. Romeo and Juliet’s  10. Dolly”? (Louis Armstrong)  11. A galloping castle? Rewrite: “. . . corner, I saw the castle looming. . .”  12. self-discovery, well rounded.

 

Win More Nitty Gritty Grammar

Good holidays to you all from the Grammar Patrol! For much, much more on these sticky wickets, see our in-depth A-Z grammar guide, More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. Rumor has it that Santa calls it a great stocking stuffer.

To win a free copy of More Nitty Grammar, enter the raffle by posting your quiz score  and listing the questions you missed in the comments section. If you earned 100%, post your score and a grammar blog post suggestion for 2014. Everyone will be entered and the winning number will be selected randomly by the Grammar Patrol. Entries due by Saturday, December 14. Winner will be contacted directly and announced on Tuesday, December 17.

Happy Holidays!

Goodreads for Authors

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

At eFrog Press we encourage authors to connect with their potential readers. Unfortunately, writing your book is only the beginning of the publishing process. Next, you must find readers. With the Internet there are more options than ever before; however, the number of options can be a problem. It is easy to get lost in social media and spend too much time connecting with other authors, people who are not interested in your genre, and just surfing the net. A writer’s time is precious and needs to be strategically devoted to marketing the new book and writing the next.

We have shared insights about tapping into the power of various social media in previous posts:

Why Create a Book Trailer? You want readers, not viewers

Save Time for Writing With Social Media Tools

Take the Leap Into Social Media

Facebook 101: Create an Author Presence

The Top 10 Ways Authors Connect to Readers on Facebook

Twitter 101: A Crash Course for Authors

How Do My Readers Find Me on Twitter? Advice for Indie Authors

How authors can use YouTube to connect with their readers

Getting Connected on LinkedIn® Professional Networking Services

An Author’s Profile Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

 

GoodreadsLogo

 

 

 

Today we encourage you to explore Goodreads—a special site for readers with 20 million members! Looking for readers? Here they are. You can join groups just for your genre and create an author presence to promote your book(s).

Although we recommend Goodreads to authors, we have discovered they do not always take to it right away. Some are puzzled by the format and how to find possible readers. Goodreads is not a place to post comments like “Read my book,” but it does provide an opportunity to find people who love to read and may love your book. So here is some advice for starting your journey.

 

Getting Started with Goodreads

1. Edit Your Profile: If you already have a Goodreads profile, be sure your name is the same as the author name on your book. Some authors use initials (J.K. Rowling), so be sure to modify your profile so your name matches or you will not be able to create your Author Dashboard with your existing account.

2. Writers are Readers: Goodreads is about sharing book recommendations, listing books you have read, plan to read, and are reading.

  • Review/Rate Books: Before you begin to promote yourself as a writer, become active as a reader.
  • Add Friends: Find people you know and people you don’t know who read books you like to read.
  • Join Groups: Explore Groups and join a few that appeal to you. Comment in discussions and resist talking about your new book—yet.

3. Add Book Cover: Search for your new book. Often it is listed sans cover. To add your cover, click on Groups (top menu bar) and then in Find Groups field, put Goodreads Librarians Group. You can post your request in the discussion group to have your cover added.

4. Claim Author Profile: Once you locate your book, click on your author name. Scroll down to the very bottom of the page and click on the link next to “Is this you?”  Once you identify yourself as the author, Goodreads will review your profile and then link your existing profile with your Author Profile.

5. Author Dashboard:  Complete your Author Profile and look through the tutorials on the Author Program. There are many ways to connect with potential readers here.

…Continue Reading

An Interview With Mrs. Saint Nick about New Christmas Book!

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

msn2We are delighted to interview Mrs. Saint Nick as the holiday season approaches. She has some great advice for slowing down and enjoying this time of year. We also ask about the new gift book featuring her Christmas duties.

 

eFrog: Hello, Mrs. Saint Nick. I appreciate your taking time for our interview during this busy time of year.

Mrs. Saint Nick: It’s more my husband’s busy time, although the more frazzled he gets, the more frazzled I get.  Much as I love the season of giving, I can’t imagine giving to all the children in all the world.  But that’s my husband.  He’s always dreamed and acted large.  And I love him for it.

 

eFrog: Tell us about your role at Christmas.

Mrs. Saint Nick:  The elves do most of the work in the factory, but they often need a woman’s touch.  How many men, truly, know how to dress a doll?  And they would never think a girl wanted a baseball bat, unless I set them straight!

 

Sled300eFrog: Is it true that you have your own sleigh?

Mrs. Saint Nick:  Absolutely.  My husband’s sleigh is a mess when he returns Christmas morning.  The first thing he does is give it a good scrubbing.  The elves help.  And his poor deer.  I couldn’t ask them to travel one more time around the world.  That’s why I have my own team with Rudolph’s sister Ruby lighting the way.

 

eFrog: What is the most challenging part of your job?

Mrs. Saint Nick:  Often when I arrive at homes, the fathers and mothers are still wide awake, both overwhelmed by the task of cleaning up.  I find myself pausing to make them tea and chat a bit and sometimes the delay forces me to work all through the day after Christmas so I can reach everybody.

…Continue Reading

Chanel Bonfire: An Explosive Memoir

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Unknown ReaderThe Unknown Reader blogs monthly about all things ebook.  Naturally, she has strong opinions about her reading material. We met with the Unknown Reader to capture a portrait of her in front of a mosaic in Solana Beach, CA, doing what she does best–reading! Naturally, she is a voracious reader and today she shares her reactions to an ebook she read that has caused lots of discussion. Keep reading to find out what the Unknown Reader thinks of Chanel Bonfire.

 

chanelbonfirecoverLooking for a reality check? Wendy Lawless’s life will give you one. Whether or not you were raised in a household as volatile as Lawless’s, Chanel Bonfire offers a therapeutic or insightful look at how humans can cope with life-draining relationships (in Lawless’s case, with an alcoholic, suicidal, erratic mother). Readers may understand Lawless’s endless striving to maintain her family’s “normal” image.

While my curiosity was piqued by the real-life drama of an “unstable, fabulously neglectful mother,” I didn’t expect to be as riveted as I was. More than riveted. Obsessed. I read for five (almost) uninterrupted hours, and then finished the book the next day. Though you’d think I’d find Chanel Bonfire due to critical acclaim in Oprah and a shout-out in the New York Times, I stumbled upon it on IndieBound.

Here’s a quote from the USA Today sums up the Chanel Bonfire reading experience very well:

“Biting . . . a quick but powerful read that you can only wish was fiction.”

So what do I think of the story? Well, Lawless balances concrete detail and pointed reflection. Her voice inspires empathy. Her eventful life keeps the momentum of the story going. I was always curious what Lawless’ mother would say or do next. Chanel Bonfire prompts us to question facades: What secrets lie behind that elegantly groomed family?

Who should read it?

I’d say this memoir is at least PG-13 for attempted suicide, sex, and violence, and I think people high school and older would appreciate the book. Check out Lawless’ Chanel Bonfire blog, Facebook Page, and website, and, if you’re interested, googling “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (which Lawless finds out her mother has) will offer a profile of the disorder, blog posts, and books for families and friends looking for help and healing.

Get Chanel Bonfire on Amazon as a paperback, hardcover, Kindle edition, or audiobook.

Please Comment

Do you have an indie gem to share from IndieBound or another site? Would you read this book (or have you already), whether or not you’re a fan of memoirs?

Share your thoughts and suggestions below in the comments to start some discussion :D

Hyphens, Part II: Pick Up (Not Pick-Up) More Tips!

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

In October, we covered some hyphen basics. This month, more hyphen tips.

More Hyphen Uses

green pick-up truck

With the names of compound numbers from 21–99 and written fractions:

thirty-three                           eighty-seventh          five-eighths

six and two-thirds                fifty-four and three-fourths

 

• With numbers showing age or time:

ten-year-old spelling champ                      18- to 22-year-old undergraduates

two- to three-year period                            a 47-year marriage

 

• with highways and to designate aircraft:

I-805                F-16

 

Hyphens with Verbs, Nouns, Adjectives

•  If you’re thinking “action,” skip the hyphen. Make most compound verbs two words.

Back up your computer documents.

Pick up your room.

• Link the words in compound nouns and adjectives, either as a single word or with a hyphen.

Take this offramp [noun] for the off-road [adjective] rally.

You can borrow my pickup [noun] to haul the manure.

Provide backup [noun] for the back-up [adjective] team.

(While most dictionaries list the noun backup as a single word, a few recognize back-up. Just don’t use the two-word verb “back up” when you mean the noun. Write “The spy called for backup” (or back-up), not “The spy called for back up.

(You’ll find more on two-word verbs like these, called phrasal verbs, in More Nitty-Gritty Grammar, page 131, including a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon!)

…Continue Reading

Author S. L. Lipson Interviews Tree Fairy Althea–Ebook Advocate

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

SusanLipsonSusan L. Lipson, a middle-grade novelist who also happens to be our Forest Beat reporter, shares her recent interview (below) with Althea, a tree fairy with unique knowledge of the human lifestyle. Lipson was tipped off to the fairy’s whereabouts by 10-year-olds Sara and Jonathan, who shared their tale, The Secret in the Wood, with her. The kids accidentally met the displaced tree fairy when Althea regained consciousness after a long sleep on Sara’s wooden bedroom wall. In this interview, Lipson discusses with Althea the positive effects of the burgeoning ebook industry on forest dwellers like herself.

 

 

SLL: Hello, Althea! So, I imagine that you have some strong feelings about the book industry that humans have created. Is that correct?

Althea: Oh, yes, indeed I do, Susan! As I’ve told Sara, I believe that humans who write words on paper must at all times remain conscious of the fact that trees gave their lives for that paper; and you must honor that sacrifice with well-chosen, vivid, concise words—the very least one can do to conserve paper and respect our natural world. Too many books spend too many pages saying too little that is worthy of the paper upon which it is printed. It’s a waste of precious tree lives, in short.

 

SLL: Do you think we should stop printing books on paper then and read exclusively on electronic reading devices?

Althea: Well, no, because not all humans have access to technology, and I have learned that illiteracy is as harmful to this planet as wasted trees. So, I believe you humans need to strike a balance, as we fairies do in Nature. I believe that you must print some paper copies of books, but definitely balance out the paper copies with ebooks. And definitely get more children to read on screens whenever possible—and to be conscious of not wasting paper when they write, too!

 

SLL: How can kids avoid wasting paper?

Althea: Be concise and precise!

 

SLL: Like poets?

Althea: Yes, indeed—by writing memorable words!

 

SLL: That’s the name of one of my blogs: Writing Memorable Words (www.susanllipson.blogspot.com)!

Althea: Blogs? Those are the electronic alternatives to paper journals and newsletters, right? Hurray for alternatives to tree chopping in every form! For every tree chopped down to make paper, tree fairies are displaced; remember that!

 

SLL: Your tales in The Secret in the Wood certainly make us remember that! What was the worst part about having your tree chopped down?

Althea: The worst part was ending up on Sara’s bedroom wall without roots for energy or the natural world for company. But then again, I never would have met Sara and learned so much about your human world if I had merely followed the fairy kingdom rules without questioning them . . .

 

SLL: Are you implying that young readers should also be rule-breakers?!

Althea: Not rule-breakers, necessarily. NONCONFORMISTS. I changed my life and the lives of Sara and Jonathan for the better by not conforming to the rules of the fairy kingdom. But now, with my new perspective, I respect the wisdom behind those rules and follow them because I choose to, not merely because I have been ordered to follow them.

 

SLL: In other words, you’ve branched out, spread your limbs, grown up . . .

Althea: Yes! Just like a tree! Oh, how much better life would be if everyone lived like a tree!

 

DanceOfTheTreesSLL: Ah, you just stated the chorus of a song I wrote, “If Everyone Lived Like a Tree”! That song will soon be added to the soundtrack I’ve written for The Secret in the Wood.  People can already hear the first song on my author-teacher website’s Songs page, a haunting song called “Dance of the Trees” (www.author-teachersusanllipson.com) or click on the picture of the trees.

Althea: Do all writers write songs to enhance their books?

 

SLL: No, and I don’t write them to enhance the books either. The songs just start playing in my head as I’m writing. I have songs for everything I write! Words and music just seem to flow in my head.

Althea: You must live around trees then, for tree fairies harness the music of the wind and fill human hearts with songs.

…Continue Reading

Hyphens, Part I: Two-for-One Special!

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 

In a variation of Will Shakespeare’s oft-quoted phrase, “To hyphenate or not to hyphenate?—that is the question.”

HyphenOrNot

We’ve chatted before on this blog about hyphens versus em dashes (—) and en dashes (–). See  Ems and Ens for Writers Tuesday, May 1st, 2012.

This month we’ll focus on the little guys, hyphens.

Hyphens (-) link words together and can help avoid confusion.

“Running mate” needs no hyphen, but does as an adjective, as in “running-mate criteria.” The hyphen shows that “mate” goes with “running,” not “criteria.” Think smoke-free airport, self-help books, cell-phone plans.

 

When to Use Hyphens        

• With some prefixes, especially when the root word is capitalized:

self-discovery, ex-president, pre-Oscar party, pre-Jurassic era, mid-January

• With blended double surnames:

Ochoa-Roberts                       Greenfield-Martin

• With compound modifiers:

a can’t-miss putt                      a first-ever book contract

Alas, hyphens don’t always stick to the rules. Different current dictionaries recognize both mouthwatering (no hyphen) and mouth-watering (with hyphen) as adjectives. Work-release has a hyphen; workroom does not. Witch-hunt, yes. Witchcraft, no.  Go figure!

…Continue Reading

How Libraries are (Finally) Joining the Ebook Revolution

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Unknown ReaderThe Unknown Reader blogs monthly about all things ebook.  Naturally, she has strong opinions about her reading material. Over the holidays the Unknown Reader ventured West to San Diego so we took advantage of the opportunity to capture a portrait of her in front of a mosaic in Solana Beach, CA, doing what she does best–reading!

 

The Age of Ebooks Has Arrived at Your Library

With Hachette joining the other Big Six publishers, there’s an increasingly united front of ebook publishers striking deals with libraries. Prepare yourselves: the age of ebooks from local libraries has definitely arrived.

A simple search in Google News for two keywords (simply “ebooks libraries” without quotation marks) conjured up results for events joining the ebook and the library across the US. From a library ebook downloading demo to an ebook distributor’s contest that encourages libraries to creatively market their ebook collections, libraries and ebooks are forming a more perfect union. School libraries are offering ebooks. Public libraries are acquiring ebook collections. More pixels, less ink.

The union of libraries and ebooks is generating plenty of press. At the start of May, the New York Times ran a thought-provoking op-ed on ebooks’ impact on democracy. The newly-released Hachette ebooks to libraries prompted a reflection on how the union of ebooks and libraries provides us with unparalleled (and nearly instant) access to information.

 

Downside?

A remarkable 62% of surveyed Americans (age 16+) didn’t know whether their local library even carried ebooks, according to an American Library Association article.

What troubles lie ahead for ebooks and libraries? One concern pointed out by the Economist is security: a talented hacker could access an entire library’s ebook collection. Another concern from the Economist:

Will someone with a library card granting ebook access never buy another book (or ebook) again?

Apparently people are still reading and buying ebooks, so publishers can stop fretting. However, ebook readers could take steps to save another institution: their local library. After all, how will libraries remain relevant in a digital age? …Continue Reading

Ebook Biography of Gary Pauslen FREE Today

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Edith Hope FineGary Paulsen: Adventurer and Author is part of the Spotlight Biography ebook series for young readers. This collection of previously published, well-reviewed biographies will grow over the next two years. Next in line is Judith Josephson’s award-winning biography on Jesse Owens. Download Gary Paulsen free on Tuesday, September 10. Download Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist free on Thursday, September 12.

 

Gary Paulsen is a writing machine, his books magnets for young readers, especially boys. His work has been translated into fifteen languages, and more than 15 million copies of his books—200+ titles—are in print. He’s used more lives than a cat—during the Itidarod sled race, on a motorcycle journey, in storms at sea, and at a Minnesota lake where he fell twelve feet through thin ice, rescued by his beloved lead dog Cookie, all fodder for his writing.

HatchetMost remarkable is Paulsen’s ability to set different tones. From books like his rollicking Harris and Me, Liar Liar, Flat Broke, Crush, and Lawn Boy, to the phenomenally popular Newbery Honor Book Hatchet, from the searching Canyons to the poetic A Christmas Sonata, Paulsen’s books fly off the shelves.

Paulsen’s own childhood was rough. “My parents were drunks,” he says bluntly of his itinerant upbringing. As a teen steeped in loneliness, he escaped to the woods and rivers of northern Minnesota, calling it “a kind of self-fostering.” Paulsen is best known for his Newbery Honor survival story Hatchet.

Paulsen Does Research

Nancy Johnson’s poignant eFrog Press blog post about writing her book My Brother’s Keeper brought to mind Gary Paulsen’s similar Civil War era research. Their focus on making history come to life for young people struck a particular chord as the nation notes the sesquicentennial of the battle that raged at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Paulsen’s Civil War-based research resulted in Soldier’s Heart, which frames the Civil War through the eyes of Charley Goddard, an underage soldier who enlists in the First Minnesota Volunteers.

…Continue Reading

Georgette Heyer: What Makes An Incomparable?

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Judith LownJudith Lown is the author of A Match for Lady Constance (Avalon) and A Sensible Lady: A Traditional Regency Romance (eFrog Press). She is hard at work on a sequel but still makes time to blog. Today she pays tribute to Georgette Heyer during the week of her birthday. Note that A Sensible Lady: A Traditional Regency Romance will be free to download from Amazon on August 16, Heyer’s birthday.

Georgette Heyer:  What Makes An Incomparable?

Geogette HeyerGeorgette Heyer might not have been the first writer to use Incomparable to designate a lady whose beauty is sufficiently compelling to thaw the hearts of icy Lords, turn erstwhile warriors into babysitters, or, most importantly, transform notorious rakes into faithful, monogamous husbands.  However, she can be credited with establishing the Incomparable as a fixture of the Regency Romance, just as she established the Regency as a staple among romance novels.

But of all the Incomparables brought to life by Heyer, none is as deserving of the title as she is, herself.  No.  She was not a great beauty.  No. She did not have a dashing career as the most sought-after debutante.  She did not even participate in a London Season. Indeed, before she was of an age to do so, she was writing her first novel, The Black Moth, in order to entertain her seriously ill brother. All the same, she well earns the title Incomparable.

 

Founder of a Literary Genre

Who else founded a literary genre?  Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Louis L’Amour?  The list is short.

What other writer whose career extended from 1921 to 1974 has her own Amazon page with audio, paperback and e-editions available—all with 4+ star ratings?

What is it about Heyer’s novels that set them apart from so many other historical novels that have their time of popularity and then fade? The answer, I believe, is that Georgette Heyer, while wholly absorbed in the mores and fashions of a specific time in history, had a keen eye for ageless human foibles and eternal human values.

 

Heyer’s Era

Think about what was happening in England and the world during Heyer’s writing career. It began just after World War I had concluded, which left behind widows, orphans and single young women whose chances for marriage and family had died in the trenches of Normandy.  The Ottoman Empire was collapsing.  Armenians were the victims of genocide.  Maimed and shell-shocked veterans were struggling to find their bearings in civilian society. Then came the worldwide Depression.  Fascism, Nazism, and Communism gained adherents.

World War II consumed the ‘40’s.  Heyer’s beloved London barely survived the Blitz.

And when the war ended Britain withdrew from its Empire and experienced the longest period of food rationing of any country following the war.

Then there was the Cold War and the specter of a nuclear holocaust.

When Heyer died in 1974, long held social customs were being abandoned, and it was not at all clear that The West would win the Cold War.

…Continue Reading

A Baker’s Dozen of Word Switcheroos Authors Should Avoid

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

 


baker's dozen for writersWord mix-ups can flummox even people who work with words daily.

Long ago Judith interviewed news anchor Allison Ross. Were it not for a last-minute word check, Judith might have called Ross’s on-air presence “enervating” (wearying), rather than “energetic” (lively).

Later, in her children’s biography about detective Allan Pinkerton, she almost had Pinkerton charging with Union troops at Antietam with the “calvary” (hill near Jerusalem), not the “cavalry” (soldiers on horseback).

Edith had to triple-check her weekly columns for your/you’re bloopers caused by flying fingers. And once, reporting on a cool field trip to a water treatment plant, she wrote about “effluent,” which a well-meaning, but dictionary-impaired, copy editor changed multiple times to “affluent.”

 

A Baker’s Dozen of Word Mix-ups

1. nauseous/nauseated

“I feel nauseous,” complained Buffy, after a garlic-laden dinner.

Whoops! Buffy is making others “feel sick or disgusted.”

If you feel unwell, use nauseated.

 

2. lend/loan

Did you lend or loan your sister your chartreuse pumps?

No matter which word you used, it was an ill-advised move, since Sis stepped in a mud puddle while wearing them.

Banks lend (verb) money. But if you buy a house, you apply for a loan (noun).

…Continue Reading

How to Get Free Ebooks in Your Inbox

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Unknown ReaderThe Unknown Reader writes about all things to do with ebooks. In today’s blog she helps you find free books. Over the holidays the Unknown Reader ventured West to San Diego so we took advantage of the opportunity to capture a portrait of her in front of a mosaic in Solana Beach, CA, doing what she does best–reading!

How to Get Free Ebooks in Your Inbox

Are you wondering where to find new, interesting and free ebooks? Well, you’re in luck! Plenty of ebook sites are more than happy to help.  My personal favorite is Freebooksy, since my favorite genres show up free in my inbox once a week. Getting those books has a great way to stay up-to-date with the indie ebook market, too.

So let’s get started on filling up your inbox with ebook freebies!

 3 Tips for Getting Started

Before you start subscribing to all the ebook email announcements (which, I admit, is hard to not do), consider how manageable your inbox will be afterward. Check out these tips and questions before diving in headfirst :)

1. Create a new email address to catch all the incoming ebooks, or use a preexisting that you check periodically (or, as I’ve found simplest, resurrect one that’s fallen into total disuse). If you don’t make a new address, try using your email provider’s filters. I’m most familiar with Gmail, which lets you filter and tag your incoming mail, but most other email providers have similar options (and folders) to explore.

2. Decide how you want to centralize your ebook notifications. Is email the best way for you to get updates about new books? I also have a dedicated corner of my RSS feed (Feedly) for ebooks news and incoming ebooks. Perhaps Facebook, Google+, Twitter or Pinterest are better for you (that is, if the blog or site provide the option).

3. Take advantage of deciding how often you get an email. Is once a week an option for this site? Or do you like the daily update?

 

10 Places to Subscribe to Free Ebook Emails

To get you started, I’ve created a list of 10 places to simply start easily collecting ebooks. There are many more sites–especially for Kindle readers.

1. Freebooksy (deals from Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble)

What’s great about this email signup is the custom setup. You choose your device, genres, and whether you want a daily or weekly email. Plus you can opt in for discounted ebooks alongside your free ones.

2. Bargain Ebook Hunter (mainly Kindle)

Subscribe to get their blog posts via email. Click on the envelope icon that’s in the right sidebar under “Also Find Us Here.” …Continue Reading

A Great Grandmother’s Letter to her Great Granddaughter about Reading

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Lilacs book covereFrog Press is delighted to host this guest post shared by Frank Barone–poet, author of Lilacs and Other Stories, and retired English teacher. His ebook, Lilacs, is free July 17-22. This eclectic collection of short stories by poet Frank Barone introduces readers to a variety of characters, and leaps from sweet reminisces at a grocery store counter to tales of the complicated life of a young woman in love. Barone’s simple prose and riveting storytelling will simultaneously take your breath away and warm your heart. Dive into these stories and spend an hour or seven roaming the California coastline and seeking adventures in the streets of Brooklyn. You won’t be sorry you did.

 

Frank BaroneWhen my friend, Ruth, and I get together, usually at a table in Barnes & Noble, we talk about books and reading, teaching and writing, golf and poetry, and always about our families.

At one of our meetings Ruth spoke about having written a letter to her eight-year-old great granddaughter in which she recalled memories of her first Christmas.  She also told me about her most recent letter in which she shared her memories of learning to read.

Telling stories to children helps them to grow up, to learn about families, neighborhoods, and about other people, places, and cultures.  Most importantly, reading stories helps us to learn in an entertaining way about ourselves.

Reading and writing hold a special place in Ruth’s life.  She earned a degree in reading and spent many productive years teaching elementary school children reading and writing skills, and encouraged them to develop a love for words.  Even now as a great grandmother, books continue to fascinate Ruth.

After you read Ruth’s letter, perhaps you might also write to one of your young relatives to share memories of your reading experiences.

 

Dear
“I have never lost my love for reading.” Ruth B.

 

Dear Mia,

I have been thinking of you. So—I decided to write to you.

Is school out for you this Friday? What are you going to do every day this summer? Be sure to read every day. Now that you are a good reader you need to keep the reading skills that you learned so—read a few minutes every day.

I am going to tell you about what happened to me when I couldn’t (didn’t) read all summer long. Then I went back to school. I was very happy. You can probably guess what had happened to my reading skills though. …Continue Reading

Writers Beware: Dangling Participial Phrases Cause Confusion

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

Dangling Participial Phrases!?

Bungee Jumping Isn’t dangling for earrings, bungee jumpers, or grapes on the vine?

Alas, no. Participial phrases can also dangle, like this:

   Rounding the bend, the medieval church loomed in the distance.

That ancient church is on the move!

English runneth over with modifiers: adjectives, adverbs, clauses, phrases, and participial phrases. Participles and other modifiers are easily (and often humorously) misplaced. In addition, they distract your readers. Today we’ll concentrate on dangling participial phrases.

What is a participle anyway?

You’ll recognize these verb forms. With regular verbs, participles end in ing (present tense), and d, ed, or t (past tense).

giggling           cleaning          dreaming

giggled            cleaned           dreamt

…Continue Reading

Free young adult ebook to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Nancy JohnsonNancy Johnson is a retired school teacher and an active author. She envisioned a trilogy of books for children about the Civil War from different points of view: a Yankee drummer boy, an African-American soldier from Boston, and a VMI cadet and young people from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  As she explains on her website: “As a teacher I realized there was a need for historical fiction about the Civil War. I believe many of the issues which divided our country during the Civil War still touch us today.”

 To mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, My Brothers’ Keeper: A Civil War Story for middle grade readers, will be free on Amazon on July 2, 3, and 4.

When I was a little girl, my mother read letters to me which had been written by my great, great uncles, two brothers from Rochester, New York.  The brothers left home to fight in the Civil War when they were very young.

george_smcarrienewMother kept their letters and pictures of the brothers and their little sister, Carrie, in a black box which was decorated with gold hearts and flowers.  I was heartbroken when I learned that the youngest brother, George Peacock, had been killed in an ambush in Virginia while he was still a teenager.

In my young mind, I made up stories about the brothers, based partly on their letters and partly on my imagination. I think I knew then that someday I would write a story about them.

I still have the letters. They are yellow now, the edges bent down and crinkled, and the ink has faded. The letters, and the stories my mother wove as she was reading them, were the inspiration for my book My Brother’s Keeper: A Civil War Story.  I used parts from the letters in the story. For example, in August 1861, my great, great uncle, Charlie Peacock, wrote:

charles_smAs I passed through one of the back streets of Alexandria I saw a building 3 stories high built of brick with the sign Price Birch & Co Dealer in Slaves. It struck me as something different from anything I had ever seen before.

When you read My Brothers’ Keeper, you will find Price Birch & Co mentioned in Chapter 7, The Road to War. On my website, you can view  a photograph of Price Birch & Co.

In addition to the letters and stories from my family, I did many months of research in books and by traveling to the places I was writing about. My husband and I climbed the rocky hill of Little Round Top at Gettysburg. We stood in the peaceful Virginia woods where my great, great uncle had been killed in an ambush in 1863. We found that three-story brick building in Alexandria with the lettering, Price Birch & Co Dealer in Slaves, still visible. We followed the path of Lee’s Retreat which led General Lee to Appomattox.

…Continue Reading

Why Create a Book Trailer? You want readers, not viewers

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

If you read our blog post How authors can use YouTube to connect with their readers you know that we here at eFrog Press are big fans of YouTube! When promoting your book online, why not create a book trailer? When readers browse through a bookstore, see an appealing cover, and pick up a book to read the jacket copy they are making a decision about buying that book. A book trailer gives readers the same opportunity online. But just like jacket copy, the book trailer must engage your potential readers quickly or they will click off faster than a person can put a book back on the shelf. Here I share what we have learned at eFrog Press assisting authors create custom book trailers.

Planning

So how do you create a compelling book trailer? Our best advice is planning. What better way to plan a book trailer than by using a storyboard? You can create simple boxes  for text and images or even use PowerPoint. Your images can be stills or actual video. The key is planning ahead.

Think still images can’t be effective? When creating a book trailer, Philippe de Vosjoli used the haunting images of his illustrator, Santiago Iborra. Watch The Legend of Atticus Rex to see the powerful combination of text and image. Of course, the power of music ties it all together and sets the mood too. And this award-winning book, The Legend of Atticus Rex Book 1: The Amulet by Philippe de Vosjoli, has a compelling plot and a main character kids can relate to.

Length

How long should a video be? Not too long and not too short. After all, a Super Bowl commercial is usually a minute or less. Don’t think you can hold an audience’s attention for five minutes—it’s not going to happen.

Did you know that Amazon now let’s authors upload video directly to Amazon? This is a perfect opportunity to show readers why they should buy your book!  Sandra Woffington did just that. See her book trailer on Amazon.

…Continue Reading

Quotation Mark Questions? Think Symphony Orchestra!

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

The Grammar Patrol We (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.
Does your head spin with questions about quotation marks?

• Do commas go inside or outside of quotation marks?

• What about question marks?

• Colons? Semicolons?

• Those pesky dashes and exclamation points?

Orchestra InstrumentsTake a moment to think of soothing music. In a symphony orchestra, some instruments, like second violins and bass violins, are workhorses. They do their jobs and follow the rules. But some all-stars take the spotlight. Oboes sound that pivotal “A” for tuning. Trumpets announce themselves. Ta-da!

The same goes for punctuation marks when used with quotation marks. Some are steady. Some are splashy.

First, we’ll share a grammar rarity: some always rules for periods, commas, colons, and semicolons.

Second, sound the trumpets! Think of question marks, exclamation points, and dashes as the prima donnas. They get special privileges. There’s no always with them.

Here are three cool “Inside/Outside” rules for remembering how punctuation works with quotation marks.

…Continue Reading

Preparing for your first school visit

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Authors pose with poster of Berend's cover. Great prop!

eFrog Press supports authors as they promote their ebooks (and print titles, too). Recently we connected two first-time, young adult authors with a local high school. The pairing was ideal as both authors were excellent writers and had created high-interest titles for teens. Even better, one of the books had natural appeal for boys (often reluctant readers) and the other appealed especially to girls. But best of all, each title had strong characters and enthusiastic readers of both sexes. On the right authors Janet Eoff Berend and Lindsay Woolman pose with poster of Berend’s cover. Great prop!

Vertical

vertical._cropVertical by Janet Eoff Berend is a coming-of-age tale about a high school guy obsessed with skateboarding who struggles with friendship, bullying, and ethical decisions. eFrog Press encouraged Berend to create a book trailer with us because her potential readers included young skateboarders who typically inhabit YouTube. Berend enlisted 15-year-old pro skateboarder Mitchie Brusco to narrate and star in the video. High school student Zane Timpson, a seasoned skateboarder and aspiring filmmaker with many skate videos online, filmed and edited the trailer. (Look for more about this amazing project in a later blog post.) Berend shared Vertical The Book Trailer Starring Mitchie Brusco at her May 17 school visit—coincidentally, the very day Mitchie Brusco competed in the Barcelona X Games and won a silver in Big Air to go with his bronze for Vert.

We opened the presentation by showing the book trailer on a big screen with great sound!

Tip: Always confirm beforehand with the school if you have any technical needs. A simple request a month ahead can be easily fulfilled, but may be impossible to grant if you wait until the day of your visit to ask.

The Perfect Pull

perfectpull_cropAfter showing the book trailer to great applause, students heard an engaging excerpt from The Perfect Pull. Lindsay Woolman’s novel focuses on a young teen girl’s struggles with trichotillomania (a disorder that includes hair pulling). She lives with her surgery-obsessed, Barbie-look-alike mother who enlists her daughter in a reality show. Want to know more? Read Woolman’s blog post From Idea to Publishing My First Book.

 

Planning

Berend listens to a student.

Berend listens to a student.

The authors met twice with eFrog Press to plan for the big day. We created a panel presentation for the school’s small theater and a writing workshop for a classroom session. To ensure that both authors’ voices were heard and to give the students different views on writing and publishing, we developed a list of five questions to ask each author and rotated their responses.

Panel Presentation Questions

1. What is your writing process?

2. How did you get the idea for your book?

3. Tell us about your publishing journey.

4. What’s next? What are you working on now?

5. What do you like most about your book? OR What scene was hard for you to write?

JanetandLindsay

Berend speaks to students about writing dialogue.

Panel Presentation

The panel format exceeded our expectations! For example, when asked about her writing process, Berend explained that she always writes her ending first. She has to have that final scene nailed down and to fully understand the character arc before she writes the early chapters. It was great fun to hear Woolman’s contrasting response. She gets to know her characters first and then just starts writing. She never knows how her book will end. In fact, writing endings is something she struggles with and she revised her final chapter of The Perfect Pull many times to get it just right.

There were some probing follow-up questions from the audience that caused the authors to pause and really think. For example, who are your literary influences? These teens were impressive!

 

Advice for Author Visit Preparation

Lindsay Woolman shares her writing process.

Woolman shares her writing process.

Preparing for your first author visit or want to revise your presentation to be more educational and also more fun? Here is some advice:

  • Read Alexis O’Neill’s article “The Truth about School Visits: How teachers judge author presentations” in the SCBWI Bulletin, May/June 2013 issue. Not a Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) member? If you are writing for children or teens, consider joining!
  • Visit Alexis O’Neill’s AuthorVisitExperts.com for detailed advice from a former teacher and seasoned author whose school presentations are loved by kids, teachers, and librarians!  I had the good fortune to attend a workshop on author visits by O’Neill at a writing retreat. She knows what she is talking about and generously shares advice and even forms you might need on her website.
  • Plan, plan, plan! Do NOT wing it!
  • Be sure any handouts or slides include your author website address. Don’t have an author website? Read Roxyanne Young’s blog post The Author’s Dilemma: Website or Blog
  • ALWAYS find a way to read from your book. They invited you because you are an author so take the time to share your writing.
  • Consider creating low-cost bookmarks to share with audience. Bookmarks featuring your cover will help teachers and students remember to look for your book! Modern Postcard is one option for well-priced bookmarks.
  • Be sure to connect with the school librarian and donate or sell autographed copies of your book.
  • Give teachers and students evaluation forms so you can discover what is working and do it again and discover what is not working and fix it.

What advice do you have for successful author visits?

We would love to hear about your school visit experiences. What have you done that really worked? What will you never do again?

Apostrophes: Flowers or Weeds?

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

Apostrophes: Flowers or Weeds?

Oh, those pesky apostrophes. We use them in contractions. We use them in possessives. They’re easily (and often) muddled.
http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-violets-isolated-white-background-image13701965The Grammar Patrol loves Frazz, the erudite cartoon strip by the Jef Mallett. In one, a student tells Frazz, the school custodian, “Violets are like flowers in the right place, and weeds in the wrong place. Like apostrophes!”

Take this sign: “Bouquet’s $7” sign. That apostrophe is a weed for sure.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-reed-image12912336The same goes for the mailbox that says “The Smith’s.” That’s two bloopers in just one sign. First, “Smith” is singular. “Smiths” is plural—more than one Smith lives there. An apostrophe added correctly (as in “The Smiths’ ”) shows possession. But why use the possessive? The Smiths’ what? The Smiths’ mailbox? Keep it simple. The sign should read “The Smiths” as in “the Smiths live here.”

 

* Apostrophes in Possessives

When Edith was in eighth grade, she was clueless about where to put apostrophes to show ownership. By guessing, she was right about 50% of the time.

Super EditorThat’s when Miss Hoezel, her English teacher, donned her blue grammar cape and flew to the rescue. As the Grammar Patrol, we’ve used her clever trick many times when teaching grammar basics. We call it the arrow method.

Here’s the key: To use apostrophes correctly, first be able to identify if a word is singular or plural, then place the apostrophe.

Miss Hoezel’s Arrow Method:

1. Draw a line under the word you want to make possessive.

If there’s one cat and one dish, underline the word “cat.”

If there are several cats and dishes, underline the word “cats.”

 

2. Where the line ends, draw an “up” arrow.

 

3. Make an apostrophe at the tip of the arrow!

(Add s to singular words.)

apostrophes

 

You can also name the apostrophe. Call it “OF.”

The dish OF the cat. The dishes OF the cat. Wherever you say “of” is where the possessive apostrophe goes.

Now it’s your turn. Give the Arrow Method a try.

Where would the possessive apostrophe go?

1. the wheels of the wagons: wagons wheels

2. the feather of the hat: hats feather

3. the votes of the alumni: alumnis votes

4. the van of the Albertsons: the Albertsons van

5. the tail of the lizard: lizards tail

6. the hair spikes of the teen: the teens hair spikes

 

* Apostrophes in Contractions

Contractions use an apostrophe to shorten a subject-verb form.

“Do not erase that board” becomes “Don’t erase that board.”

The apostrophe replaces the o in not.

 

TIP: it’s versus its:

It’s is the contraction of “it is.” One of our students gave us this great mnemonic: “Possessive its never splits.” A dog wags its tail, (never it’s tail—that means it is tail”). The tail belongs to the dog. Think ownership. No weedy apostrophe, please.

 

Arrow Method Answers

1. wagons’ wheels

2. hat’s feather

3. alumni’s votes

4. the Albertsons’ van

5. lizard’s tail

6. teen’s hair spikes

Please share

We send huge bouquets your way for using the possessive properly. We’d never send you weedy bouquet’s! Do post more egregious apostrophe bloopers. We love hearing from you.

Writing Historical Fiction

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

S. WoffingtonToday S. Woffington shares her journey from reluctant history student to avid author of historical fiction. Her new novel, Unveiling, is available as an ebook and in print on Amazon. Unveiling is the story of Sara—a spirited, young Saudi woman—who is passionate about preserving and expressing her ancient heritage through her art. But this seemingly simple goal puts her at odds with her prominent family and the traditions of her heritage, which demand she veil her artist’s eyes. Forced to choose between her two greatest passions, Sara escapes to America, only to find that unveiling entails far more than the removal of a black piece of cloth. This act of defiance thrusts Sara into a perilous triangle involving family, government, and a relentless suitor. Only by finding the courage to unveil her own heart can she paint her destiny. To learn more about this new novel, view the book trailer.

Writing Historical Fiction

Round about middle school, I realized that I hated history class.  That distaste lasted all through high school.  English included fun fictional stories, and I loved to write; science fascinated me; I even liked math.  But history required memorizing names and dates and learning about people long dead.  What was the point?

What changed that was a novel.  For my nineteenth birthday, a friend gave me Susan Howatch’s Cashelmara, a novel set in 19th century England and New York, shortly after the Irish famine.  I nodded and said, “Thank you,” to my friend with a thought not to read it.  But I opened the book, and I finished it quickly.  Through a fictional setting and characters, history suddenly, emotionally, and forevermore came to life for me.  I couldn’t wait to pick up the next novel, and I turned to the classics, Madame Bovary and stories from 1001 Arabian Nights, the latter of which was fortuitous, since I moved to Saudi Arabia when I was twenty-two.

…Continue Reading

Writers Beware: Idioms, Malapropisms, and Other Funny Expressions

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

 The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

For those new to English, many expressions pose puzzling challenges. Can something really “drive you up a wall”? Read on.

Idioms

Idioms are expressions with understood meanings, but are figurative, not literal.

In our neck of the woods, we’re pleased as punch when it rains cats and dogs.

Our gerbil kicked the bucket.

We burn the midnight oil.

The Cabbage Patch doll was a flash in the pan.

Pie in the Sky

Your optimistic grandmother may have a pie-in-the-sky attitude.

Actress Blythe Danner has worked “Break a leg!” into an osteoporosis drug ad.

I’m under the weather.

Sports idioms have crept into everyday communication:

They’re out in left field.

Mosley got it straight from the horse’s mouth.

Let’s touch base on Tuesday.

Idioms abound in work settings:

Our design team thinks outside the box.

The comptroller is crunching the numbers.

Bubba LaRue is climbing the corporate ladder.

Beef up your resume.

As an added challenge, idiomatic expressions can change, especially in “teen speak.” “I could be up with that” once meant you liked an idea.  Now it’s “I could be down with that.” Go figure!

As Ziva from TV’s popular NCIS perfects her English, her idiomatic mismatches amuse her colleagues: “Stay focused on the job in my hand” or “You are a broken tape, Gibbs.” She was “close, but not cigar”; she meant “job at hand” and “broken record.”

…Continue Reading

Love is the Link: A hospice doctor shares her experience of near-death and dying

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Pam Kircher, MDPamela M. Kircher, MD, is a childhood Near-Death Experiencer as well as a Hospice Physician.  For over 20 years, she has worked with people with NDEs and spoken internationally about the profound effects that mystical experiences and being with the dying have on our daily lives and how we live those lives.  In this updated version of Love is the Link: A hospice doctor shares her experience of near-death and dying, she shares how the fields of NDEs and the hospice movement have evolved since the original version of the book.  She also reflects on how her own NDE continues to influence her life.  Hew newly updated book is now available as an ebook and can be downloaded free on Amazon on March 26, 29, and 30.

Dr. Kircher lives with her husband on a ranch in southern Colorado.  To learn more about her, go to her website, www.pamkircher.com.

Near-Death Experience (NDE)

After a Near-Death Experience (NDE) during an episode of meningitis at age 6, like most people with a NDE, I found my world forever changed. My fear of death was erased, my interest in living from love greatly increased.  My particular version of a life of service has included being a family practice and hospice doctor, talking with health care professionals about the reality and importance of NDEs, introducing integrative medicine into the hospital setting, and providing Tai Chi for Health to thousands of people through my work as a Master Trainer in Dr. Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Health programs.

When I began publicly speaking about NDEs in the 1980’s, people began sharing their stories and I wrote them down after each encounter.  As these stories accumulated over the next 6 years, I knew that they should be shared with a larger audience to inspire us all to expand our view of reality.  Here is one of those stories:

Love is the Link“A nurse had cared in the hospital for a terminally-ill adolescent for six months prior to the teenager’s death.  One night at 2:35 a.m. the nurse awoke at home from a sound sleep and felt that the boy was standing next to her bed.  She could see him very clearly and was surprised to see that he was wearing a new baseball cap.  She asked him what he was doing in her room.  The boy said that he had come to tell her that he was all right and that the nurse should hug his mother for him when she saw her in three months.  The nurse then went back to sleep, thinking that she must have had a very vivid dream.  She couldn’t shake the feeling the next morning, so she called the hospital to check on the boy.  After a long pause, the other nurse told her that the boy had died unexpectedly at around 3 a.m.

“The nurse had nearly forgotten the “dream” when she was attending a funeral of another patient three months later.  The first patient’s mother walked up to her at the cemetery—even though she had always sworn that if her son died, she would never return to that city.  The nurse told her about her vision and asked if she had ever seen that baseball cap.  The mother laughed and said that she had bought the hat for her son, but had not yet had time to take it to the hospital on the night that her son died.  She said that she, too, had felt the presence of her son intermittently over the past three months. It was very comforting to her that her son had wanted to reassure her, but still puzzling as to how he knew about the baseball cap and how he knew that his mother would be in the city in three months and would meet the nurse at that time.”

Love is the Link

The original version of Love is the Link: A hospice doctor shares her experience of near-death and dying was written some 18 years ago.  This updated version retains the original timeless stories of people forever changed by their NDEs or other spiritually transformative experiences (STEs.)  It goes on to discuss how healthcare professionals have gone from considering NDEs and STEs as aberrant psychological events to an awareness that a NDE occurs in one out of five people who have a cardiac arrest, that thousands of people have had them, and that they are life-changing events that deserve respect. It discusses how healthcare providers can be of assistance to people who had had NDEs and other avenues of assistance in integrating the experience.

…Continue Reading

Sizing Up a Lighthouse: The Light Between Oceans

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Unknown ReaderThe Unknown Reader will be reviewing ebooks. Naturally, she has strong opinions about her reading material. Over the holidays the Unknown Reader ventured West to San Diego so we took advantage of the opportunity to capture a portrait of her in front of a mosaic in Solana Beach, CA, doing what she does best–reading!

When I read The Light Between Oceans, (M. L. Stedman, Scribner 2012) I had my guard up. Compared to the classic lit I’d been sampling (like Austen’s Emma and Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes escapades) how could a living author measure up?

My cynicism slowly sputtered out (and with thousands of reader ratings online, earning it #1 Historical Fiction of 2012 on goodreads, it is already becoming a reliably good read). By the time I hit Part Two (a quarter through the book), I was hooked in the net of intertwining lives, building suspense, and connection to the characters. I craved Australia’s shores while I ached with heavy post-war pain and joy. Nothing like a well-researched, well-plotted historical fiction novel to take my guard down.

As a brief, vague, non-spoiler nutshell, here’s what you’re in for:
1.    Wondering how to deal with life and love after various trauma
2.    Life’s (and the plot’s) crisscrossing paths
3.    Omniscient glimpses into each character’s perspective
4.    Mysteries existence, birth, death, souls, God, fate, hope, love
5.    Neatly tucked in figurative language (heavy-handed at times)
6.    Realistic dialogue (with nifty post-WWI and tech jargon)
7.    Feeling the ocean’s salty spray (through fresh, lively verbs)

…Continue Reading

Put Out a BOLO (Be On the LookOut) on Pronoun Agreement

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

Blue station wagon, license ISPKGOODIn Perfect Grammar Land, you’d hear, “Put out a BOLO for a blue station wagon, license ISPKGOOD.” We want you to put out a BOLO on agreement bloopers when prepositions pair with incorrect pronouns. Such errors abound, especially in speech and on TV and radio shows.

The Grammar Patrol winces when a best-selling writer says on NPR, “It was a big thing for my wife and I to take the plunge.” Would you say, “It was big for I?” or “Where are the Girl Scout cookies for I?”  (No way: for me . . . me . . . me!)

Can you spot the bloopers? Clues are in boldface.

1. Here’s a picture of Sam and I holding hands.

2. He said it to Alex and I many times.

3. The photocopier decision was made by he and she.

4. Between you and I, I’m not a Downton Abbey fan.

5. Our cow costume won for she and I.

All five examples have incorrect pronouns used with prepositions. This is an easy error, made by the most erudite among us.

To get this straight, you need to know three things:

• what a preposition is

• what a prepositional phrase is

• which form of a pronoun to use.

…Continue Reading

Save Time for Writing With Social Media Tools

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Many writers want to have an author’s Facebook page and a Twitter account. Of course, there is also email, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and a website. Plus, you need to work on that next book. Where to find the time?

Social Media for Authors

In previous blog posts on social media, we have shared some practical information about how authors can harness the power of Social Media:

Take the Leap Into Social Media

Facebook 101: Create an Author Presence

The Top 10 Ways Authors Connect to Readers on Facebook

Twitter 101: A Crash Course for Authors

How Do My Readers Find Me on Twitter? Advice for Indie Authors

How authors can use YouTube to connect with their readers

Getting Connected on LinkedIn® Professional Networking Services

An Author’s Profile Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Two Social Media Dashboards

But how do you find the time? One solution is to use free tools that act like a social media dashboard. I have used two: Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.  Both allow you to control your Twitter content. This blog is not an evaluation of the two because I like features of each. I began with Tweetdeck and transitioned over to Hootsuite. This post is just to make you aware that such wonderful tools exist that can simplify your life and improve your efficiency resulting in more time to focus on your real job—writing your next book! …Continue Reading

From Idea to Publishing My First Book

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

YA author Lindsay WoolmaneFrog Press is delighted to share the publishing journey of another indie author. Lindsay Woolman is a freelance writer and young adult (YA) author who has always wanted to write books for teenagers. Her favorite kinds of books are ones that make her laugh and make her cry. She loves when she can get so engrossed in a story that she simply cannot put it down. She likes fast moving, funny books with twists and turns and quirky characters who tell the story and make her forget everything else.

The Perfect PullEvery author has a different story of how their book was born. My “first born” (The Perfect Pull) is actually a nine year old—a book that I wrote over a nine-year period of time that is. While I don’t recommend taking almost a decade to write your first book, it is what happened to me, partly because I was playing the traditional publishing game.

Everything about my book, from the topic to how I approached my query letter, was always designed to sell it to a publisher. That is what I had been taught—that getting a publisher is the end goal.

I’m happy to say that the process of navigating self-publishing a print and ebook has been a million times more satisfying than I expected and actually a blessing. For authors who are new in their career, handing them a contract and allowing them to “sit and wait” must be exciting, but it could also be to their detriment.

The fact that my success is solely dependent on me (and not a faceless publisher “out there”) is, I think, more of a recipe for making it long term. Maybe it doesn’t come with fast cash with an advance, but knowing I can log right into my Amazon account and see the sales numbers makes it all the more real.

What Is the Story That Only You Can Write?

When I was growing up I had this weird disorder that I never spoke of. I loved how it felt to touch and twirl my hair and one day I started pulling it out without knowing why. When it came to a topic for my book, I decided that exploring a character with this same problem (but 10x worse) would be something unique and potentially interesting, as I know teenagers are drawn to anything out of the ordinary.

…Continue Reading

An Author’s Profile Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Roxyanne Young is a children’s author and photographer with extensive knowledge about websites. Today she shares some important information for authors about their profile photos. Authors need photos for book covers, conference programs, flyers, and social media. If you are like me and hate to have your picture taken, this award-winning photographer has some very practical tips so you can put your best face forward.

If an image is worth a thousand words, what is your author portrait saying about you?

Images intended for book jackets should be close-up shots centered on the author’s face and should avoid distracting background clutter, other people, etc. These images are usually about one and one-half inches wide by two inches tall. There’s just not enough room to include your desk, bookshelves, or whatever else you think helps to define you as an author. This particular image is all about you and nothing else.

Author M. Louisa Locke strikes a classic author pose in front of her personal libraryIf you feel like you have to include books, though, sit far enough away from them that they’re going to blur into the background of your portrait. You don’t want your readers distracted by legible book titles. Author M. Louisa Locke (left) strikes a classic author pose in front of her personal library.

 

 

Other things to watch out for:

  • Desks cluttered with knick-knacks, stacks of paper, file folders
  • Busy, boldly-patterned clothing
  • Wrinkled sheets hung up as a backdrop
  • Bad lighting, harsh flash
  • Standing head-on, shoulders back, against a plain white wall, unless you’re going for a mug shot look

THE KEYS TO POWERFUL PORTRAITS

Clothing

Katrin Azimi is a beautiful woman, but in this pose, her blouse's busy pattern is distractingWear something solid in a dark color–black or navy blue look good on most people, which is why you see them so often in portraits. Cream is also a good choice for most skin tones, but when you go to your portrait session, bring a couple of clothing options and discuss with your photographer which she thinks will look best on you. In this portrait, Katrin has much more flattering lighting and she's wearing a plain black dress, so the viewer's focus is on her gorgeous eyes, not on what she's wearing]Better yet, have her take pictures in several outfits and then select your favorites from the proofs.

Katrin Azimi is a beautiful woman, but in this pose (above left), her blouse’s busy pattern is distracting. In the portrait on the right, Katrin has much more flattering lighting and she’s wearing a plain black dress, so the viewer’s focus is on her gorgeous eyes, not on what she’s wearing. If you have a striking eye color, say bright blue, that is brought out by wearing bright blue or gray, by all means, choose something that flatters you, but keep it simple in style.

…Continue Reading

The Italics vs. Quotes Debate

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

Thanks to computers, we can now italicize with a keystroke. But that doesn’t solve this dilemma: When to italicize words and when to use quotation marks?

Is it “Harry Potter” or Harry Potter? “Sixty Minutes”or Sixty Minutes? “Madame Butterfly” or Madame Butterfly?

Let’s face it. Sometimes you just have to memorize the rules. If memorization isn’t your forte (and yes, we still say “fort,” but dink around on the Internet: the two-syllable “for-tay” is on the rise and no longer considered incorrect), we suggest consulting your favorite grammar book. Might we suggest our Nitty-Gritty Grammar  or More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. (True confession: We both keep these grammar guides handy, especially for rules surrounding today’s topic.)

One friend, now a retired middle school English teacher, used this trick to help her students. She told them to think about this in terms of big pieces or little pieces. Big = italics. Small = quotation marks.

Check out these specifics:

Italics

First, some of the easier-to-remember uses of italics. Use italics:

• for scientific names: Tyrannosaurus rex

• for emphasis: “The will, as only Maxwell knew, made him the sole heir to their parents’ fortune.”

• for screen play directions, to show how a character should speak a line: Kermit (innocently): “It’s not that easy being green”

• for words from other languages: bon ami, piéce de la resistance, c’est magnifique, mea culpa, c’est fini, feng shui, E pluribus unum, Hasta mañana, baby!

Tip: Some foreign words (shish kebab, en masse, cafe latte, and maven) have been used so often that they are no longer italicized.

…Continue Reading

What Are Your Favorite Books for Babies?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

My two adult children love to read—my main claim to success as a mother. They grew up in a home surrounded by books and often opted to spend their birthday money on new volumes of their very own. I remember my daughter as a toddler “reading” with an adult and interrupting if a page were skipped. I knew I was raising another reader when my six-year-old son fell asleep in his bed curled around an open encyclopedia volume.

I also knew my daughter was marrying well when I discovered that her new in-laws had more books than I did!

So when friends and family began to plan her baby showers (yes, multiple showers), I was not surprised that two focused on her love of books. Guests were encouraged to gift children’s books that they loved to form her new son’s library.

Shower guests shared some touching stories about their own memories of reading these titles aloud to their children. One guest had to hunt down her special book as it was no longer in print but find it she did. My mother could not attend but sent a copy of Goodnight Moon and this note:

I have such wonderful memories reading Goodnight Moon to you over and over again. I know you knew it by heart but wanted me to read it to you anyway. Jennie, I’ll never forget the time I took you to Target and sat you in the cart. You probably were around three. I was shocked because as I pushed the cart along you were reading all the signs out loud! I was so impressed.

…Continue Reading

Six Graphix Basix

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Unknown ReaderThe Unknown Reader shares pet peeves about formatting. Naturally, she has strong opinions about the format of any reading material. Over the holidays the Unknown Reader ventured West to San Diego so we took advantage of the opportunity to capture a portrait of her in front of a mosaic in Solana Beach, CA, doing what she does best–reading!

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a phrase I’m sure you’ve heard. But how many times have you heard “Don’t judge a book by its promotional materials”? No matter how good your writing (and intentions), your audience will judge the quality of your advertising, conference presentation, website, book trailer, and cover. Whether you’re enlisting outside expertise or creating your own promotional materials, getting the hang of basic graphic design principles will serve you well.

I used to think I could craft a handout, poster, or PowerPoint presentation and trust my intuition and eyeball it. But then I perused some beginner’s graphic design books. Humility ensued.

After selecting the informal-yet-informative Robin Williams Design Workshop as my primary book, I worked to consciously synthesize the material into the tips below. Augmenting my subjective graphic design intuitions into concrete steps helps me check over—and greatly improve—any presentation. Before starting your next InDesign or Photoshop project, brush up on these six big-picture basics. As I like to recommend: “Don’t cut the C.C.C.R.A.P!”

1. Contrast Size

  • Varying your text, photo, and graphics sizes adds visual interest
  • Make sure it’s all readable from whatever distance you anticipate your audience

…Continue Reading

Reflections on my YA Novel about Sexting

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Today eFrog Press welcomes veteran children’s author Karen Mueller Coombs to share thoughts about the process of writing and publishing her latest YA novel–Sexted! Coombs is the author of ten published fiction and nonfiction books for children and young adults. Born in Wisconsin and raised in Northern Alberta, Karen is a former elementary school teacher now living in Southern California, where she ice curls and plays golf when she isn’t reading and writing. You can learn more about her and her books at www.karencoombs.com.

A book about sexting? Written from a boy’s point of view? A teenage boy who gets a racy photo from an anonymous girl? Where the heck did that idea come from?

At the time I began Sexted!, reports of sexting were beginning to permeate the media. Kids were being charged with disseminating and possessing child pornography, going to juvie hall because of it, even being threatened with having to register as sex offenders for life. It seemed like a perfect topic for a young adult novel. Enter Sexted!, first called U Sho Me Yrs, Il Sho U Myn after a text the main character receives.

So why write from the viewpoint of a teenage boy, since, obviously, I never was one?

I never even considered writing from the girl’s point of view. Girls whose photos go viral sometimes end up committing suicide. Too dark for me. Besides, the topic seemed more charged with humorous, tantalizing possibilities when approached from the viewpoint of the thrilled, confused, titillated male receiver than from the viewpoint of the romantic, flirtatious, naïve girl.

And my male characters appeared quickly. They became real to me long before the sender of the photos even emerged. It was their story, not hers. And I enjoy writing from a boy’s viewpoint, possibly because I grew up sandwiched between two brothers. I scarcely played with dolls or other girly toys. Not me. I played cowboys and Indians, hockey and softball. I climbed trees, collected baby mice, rafted on the pond, and owned my own .22. (Don’t freak. I never killed anything.) In other words, I was a tomboy.

My Writing Process

Once I nailed the characters and the basic idea, I began to write—and write. I avoid plotting before I begin. I dive in and then go where the current carries me, which makes for a meandering journey with lots of back paddling. In my first draft, I had two subplots, and my two narrators, Finn and Josh, didn’t sound distinctive enough, as pointed out by my editor, Deborah Halverson, former Harcourt Brace Children’s editor and author of young adult novels and the book Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies. I stewed for a while, spying on the boys while they went about their lives and eavesdropping on their conversations. Suddenly, I began truly hearing their voices, the cadences of their speech. I felt I was channeling those two, hormonal, fifteen-year-old geeks. What a ride!

Josh—edgy and anxious, the scientist. A guy who stutters and speaks in short bursts with a staccato rhythm and who is prone to tossing out a few curse words here and there.

Finn—confident, modest, more literary, a young man who utters complete sentences and eschews (for the most part) any four-letter words.

A year passed as I wrote. My subject was timely. Perhaps too timely. The media were now full of news about how the punishment for sexting doesn’t fit the crime, how the laws need to change. I had to get my book out there before it became historical fiction. But still I revised. Finally, once the extensive revisions and re-revisions were complete (two subplots removed, one later reinserted), I began sending the manuscript to agents and editors. Months passed. The manuscript got a few sniffs. Finally an editor expressed interest. But the publisher streamlined the company and closed the imprint before the editor could make an offer.

Taking the Leap

Knowing that even if I received an immediate offer from another editor or from an agent, it might be one or two years before the book became available, I took a leap of faith and decided to publish Sexted! as an eBook, followed by a printed edition. I had previously dipped my toe in the eBook waters with one of my middle grade, out-of-print novels, Beating Bully O’Brien, which I had extensively revised and improved, then released as Bully at Ambush Corner. Although the publisher of Bully did an excellent job of the publication process, I became disillusioned, because I was unable to access sales figures on my own, and had to wait for the company to release them. Those figures were also a few months behind, so, unless I phoned them regularly, I had no immediate feedback about the success of my extensive promotional efforts via my blog, also called “Bully at Ambush Corner,” Facebook, Twitter, etc. Enter eFrog Press.

The most challenging aspect to self-publishing is acquiring a cover. I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to some things—A BIT? hubby hollers in the background—and eFrog not only put up with my numerous requests, they came through big time, thanks to cover designer Suzanne Santillan. If those legs, the cell phone, and the police tape don’t grab a teen’s attention, nothing will.

After approving the cover, I nitpicked about copyediting suggestions and formatting. And still eFrog didn’t tell me to take a hike; they were exceedingly accommodating. Cover. Conversion. Publication. Easy peasy with eFrog. Sexted! is available now in digital format and will soon be out in print as well. And it’s still a contemporary novel, not historical fiction! Whew!

For those of us who have previously published books with the reassuring support and backup of a traditional publishing house, self-publishing an original manuscript can be an experience filled with trepidation. eFrog made the actual nuts and bolts of the business relatively painless—for me at least. I can’t attest to how much pain I caused them. Here’s hoping my leap of faith into the world of teenage sexting pays off.

If cell phone cameras had been available when I was a teenager, would I have sent a photo of my bare boobs, or any other private body part, to a guy I’d never met? To a guy I knew and liked? I DON’T THINK SO, even though my teen boobs were appealing enough at fifteen to warrant an obscene phone call from some unknown, drooling adolescent obnoxiously praising them. Thank goodness cell phone cameras didn’t exist back then. That creepy adolescent might have sexted me a photo! Aaaaaaack!

More about Sexted!

Finn McCarthy and Josh Hadley feel like typical tenth-grade übergeeks who don’t really stand out or fit in . . . until the day Finn is texted a racy photo from an anonymous female with the tantalizing proposition: Wan 2 c mor?

Feeling flattered, confused, excited, and nervous, Finn seeks the counsel of his best friend, Josh, and together they attempt to unravel the why and—most importantly—the who of this enticing message.

This task proves difficult, yet it’s an intoxicating escape from the difficulties both boys face at home. Finn’s mom is an alcoholic and his dad seems to accept her destructive behavior as status quo. Josh and his sister, Paige, are children of divorce living with a mom who is always working, and an absentee dad who has news that will change their lives forever.

While unraveling the mystery of these seductive texts, both Finn and Josh must face their demons and desires—and decide which risks are truly worth taking.

“Karen Coombs, yet again, tackles a hot topic from the perspective and authentic voice of today’s teens. With genuine characters and authentic emotion, she reveals how seemingly innocent curiosity can lead to damaging consequences.”

 Please share

Do you know of any incidents where teenagers were involved with sexting? What were the consequences? What should the consequences be for sexting?

Indie Novels Worth Downloading

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

A friend who loves to read and wants to support indie authors, decided to buy all indie for her holiday gifts. Much to her disappointment, the majority of the ebooks were so poorly edited that she returned them. At eFrog Press our mission is to provide a menu of professional services so that indie authors can publish titles that are a pleasure to read.

This year I have read many ebook novels written by indie authors that my friend could have gifted  without worry. Here are just a few such books—some we had the pleasure to work on and others we just had the pleasure to read. Buy with confidence. To learn more about any of these titles, just click on the cover.

Not sure how to gift ebooks? Read Ebooks Make Great Gifts for Kids!

Cozy Mystery

My first recommendation is the Victorian San Francisco Mystery series by M. Louisa Locke. I heard Locke speak at a conference in January and immediately purchased Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery. Locke’s success as a writer allowed her to retire early from her job as a history professor, but her attention to detail and historical accuracy shine through in every volume. I went on to read all her books and think you will too!

Maids of Misfortune Free for 1 Day Only on Kindle (December 28, 2012)

Uneasy Spirits: Free for 2 Days on Kindle (December 28-29, 2012)

Regency Romance?

Until I began working with Judith Lown, I had no idea what a Traditional Regency Romance was. I have learned it is not a bodice-ripper but a more genteel, historically accurate tale that takes place during the Regency Period. Want to know more? Read Lown’s definition in her blog post The Roots of Regency Romance. I don’t read romance but I do love Jane Austen and Lown’s strong women characters, her witty comments, and plot twists appeal to me. Her first book, A Match for Lady Constance, was published by Avon (now owned and republished by Amazon) and her second  (with related characters) is an indie title—A Sensible Lady.  Lown is hard at work on the third. I have had a sneak peak and highly recommend that you start reading the first two now, so you will be ready when the third is published in 2013.

Historical Fiction

The Wedding Shroud: A Tale of Ancient Rome by Elisabeth Storrs is a gem of a story coming to us via Australia. This gripping tale of a young Roman woman who is married to an Etruscan nobleman as part of a peace treaty follows the young bride’s journey to a new land and a new culture. Ever gaze in wonder at Etruscan jewelry in a museum case? Learn more about this fascinating culture. Storrs spent ten years researching and so the novel is saturated with historic details that compel the reader to keep reading. Her characters are beautifully developed and her plot evolves naturally and yet still surprises. The book ends with you wanting more, but, fortunately, there is a sequel on the near horizon! Learn about the author’s publishing journey and view a video on her blog post What’s an Author to Do?

I have read The Thinara King,  the second of the nine-book series, “The Child of the Erinyes,” set in ancient Crete. Now I plan to go back and read the first title and Recbecca Lochlann is finishing the third. Here is what the author has to say to readers about her series:

“The Child of the Erinyes” is not for everyone. Along with some mature subject matter, it’s an extended series, beginning in the Bronze Age and not wrapping up till the near future. It’s a story that requires commitment and patience. Things hinted at in Book One, “The Year-god’s Daughter,” might not be resolved until Book Nine–the conclusion.

I love discovering a series I enjoy as there are always new titles to look forward to. Try the first volume—The Year-god’s Daughter.

Thriller

Thirst by L.A. Larkin is a page turner! Ready for thrills and excitement? Antarctica is the coldest, most isolated place on earth. Luke Searle, maverick glaciologist, has made it his home. But soon his survival skills will be tested to the limit by a ruthless mercenary who must win at any cost. The white continent is under attack. The Australian team is being hunted down. Can Luke stay alive long enough to raise the alarm? Can he avert a global catastrophe?

Thirst named to the Best Crime Fiction 2012 list!

Go Indie

Today I am here to dispel the myth that there are no well written ebooks. Download any of the ebooks above, cuddle up in a comfy chair, and disappear into another time and place.

Please share ebooks of worth you have enjoyed in 2012.

Ebooks Make Great Gifts for Kids!

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

I just smile when people tell me that kids don’t like ebooks. Have you ever seen a small child with an iPad scrolling through a vibrantly colored picture book? Have you seen the soaring stats on the sales of digital children’s books?

“Children’s ebooks grew by 89% in July 2012 versus the same period last year — a fast growth rate, to be sure, but much slower than in early 2012 when children’s ebooks saw monthly growth rates of 475.1% in January and 177.8% in February.” — Jeremy Greenfield, Digital Book World, November 1, 2012

How Can You Gift an Ebook?

All of the big ebook sellers provide a simple way to give an ebook as a gift. I don’t mean a gift card. I mean there is a method to send a person a specific ebook that you think they would enjoy reading. For example, Barnes & Noble’s website allows you to select the book you want to gift and then click on “Buy as Gift” (to the right of the Buy Now button) to send the gift to the recipient. On Amazon, find the book you’d like to send and select the “Give as a Gift” button (to the far right of the page, under the Buy button).

A Few Recommendations

Now for some surefire recommendations for quality ebooks as Christmas gifts for those special little ones and teens from eFrog Press.

Hershey: A Second Chance by L.C. Scott
A story about an endearing Doberman who is adopted by eight-year-old Dylan and his family. Readers learn about the advantages of adopting an older dog and also about the Doberman breed.  Dylan struggles with reading and Hershey struggles with sitting still. When Dylan decides to enroll Hershey as a reading dog at the local library, they embark on a new adventure filled with twists and turns that neither could have predicted. Ages 7 & up.

FREE Saturday, December 29, and Sunday, December 30.


The Legend of Atticus Rex Book 1: The Amulet by Philippe de Vosjoli
In this adventure fantasy set in ancient Rome, an Italian mastiff plays a pivotal role (another good read for dog lovers!). In the first book of this trilogy, the Great Spirit Dog, Atticus Rex, is summoned from the Underworld to protect life on Earth and vanquish the wicked shadow creatures brought forth by evil Volgoths. This page turner is beautifully illustrated by Santiago Jborra . Want to know more? View the book trailer. Ages 7 & up.


Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist by Edith Hope Fine
This biography of Barbara McClintock, the first woman ever to receive an unshared Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, is an inspirational read for budding scientists—especially young girls. McClintock research maize and discovered “jumping genes” which was a breakthrough for geneticists. Read this fascinating portrait of a scientist who harnessed her dreams and her intellect to challenge the world’s understanding of heredity. Add a little nonfiction to your gift list.


Vertical: A Novel by Janet Eoff Berend
High school freshman Josh Lowman comes alive when he skateboards but almost falls asleep when he goes to class. Josh struggles with a moral dilemma in this realistic portrayal of a young teen struggling to figure out who he is and what he believes in. His friendships with a fellow skater, a girl in his English class, and a cool math tutor (a college student who skates) slowly steer him toward a new kind of courage.The skateboarding scenes give the reader a real understanding of the sport and will appeal to teens who love this sport. Ages 11 & up.


The Perfect Pull by Lindsay Woolman
Free on  Amazon, Wednesday, December 19
Fifteen-year-old Alyssa Simone suffers from trichotillomania, a compulsive urge to pull out  hair. She attempts to blend in at a new high school while her mother, a Barbie doll look-alike thanks to plastic surgery, stars on a reality show and coaxes Alyssa in front of the camera. As if that were not enough, Alyssa worries about never having been kissed while her best friend from her old high school constantly texts her updates of her numerous romantic conquests. Ages 11 & up.


What do you recommend?

We would love to hear your recommendations for ebooks for children and teens. Please share your favorites with us.

…Continue Reading

2012′s Bright Idea: The Kindle Paperwhite

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Our new Unknown Reader shares her evaluation of her experience with her very first ereader. Curious about the features of the new Kindle Paperwhite? Keep reading.

Only six weeks after awaking my Kindle Paperwhite from its shipping siesta, I simply can’t see myself ever going back to only paper-paged books. My first ereader has transported me to the ethereal land of e-ink, where I read quickly, quietly, and comfortably.

This comes as a terrific surprise to me. I grew up loving the scent of new paper and ink. I recall sticking my face between the pages of a new book in the elementary school library, drawing in a huge sniffff, trading my book for my friend’s, then both repeating the process. As my school days progressed, I still loved books, but I grew to resent a Norton Anthology’s toll on my wrist, a stubborn shadow on a page, a long passage in size 8 font.

So now I have a Kindle Paperwhite. Have you considered getting one? Before you do, consider my experience thus far—the good, the bad, the Kindle.

+ The Pluses:

  • Brightness anxiety, begone! With 25 possible brightness levels (0 to 24), your eyes can be comfortable in any setting. Especially as someone who keeps their laptop screens quite dark, I was nervous that the Kindle would be too bright—but it’s not. Glare is also minimal on the matte screen.
  • Incredibly light and easy to handle, the Paperwhite is certainly no paperweight (though I’ve witnessed “Paperwhite” misheard as “paperweight”), which makes me more apt to tackle a heavy book (War and Peace is downloaded and intended to be read). …Continue Reading

How authors can use YouTube to connect with their readers

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Our social media goddess at eFrog Press is back to share more channels for connecting with your readers. Do you YouTube? Learn why you should.

If you haven’t heard of YouTube, then you’re brand-new to the Web. YouTube is well-known video-sharing network, which hosts billions of videos and is a great place for you to share your book trailers and other related videos with your readers.

How YouTube Can Work for You

YouTube is also a great way to drive traffic to your website and is highly ranked with search engines so your presence on the video monster site can only help you gain exposure. Consider creating a book trailer as a marketing vehicle to share your book with fans.

Check out eFrog Press’s newest book trailer:

But authors can utilize YouTube beyond book trailers. Consider sharing an “about the author” video so readers can get to know you, a testimonial to your writing (from you or a devoted fan), footage of you reading an excerpt of your writing, or a Q&A format short interview. You’ll have broader reach to more readers and create compelling content to draw in new fans.

How to Start

The first step is creating a YouTube account. Second, you’ll want to secure a channel to post all of your videos so they can live in one place. YouTube gives you the option to name your channel and the best practice for authors is to use your name (or pen name) so readers can easily find you (and search engines, too!). Learn more about getting started with YouTube.

…Continue Reading

Going on Blooper Patrol

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

Thanks for sending in written and spoken bloopers. This week we explore common grammar errors, ones that can make bosses, teachers, audiences, and email and letter recipients wince.

One eFrog Blog reader sent a lovely cartoon picturing a gentleman ordering dinner in a posh Italian restaurant. He tells the waiter, “I’ll have the misspelled ‘Ceasar’ salad and the improperly hyphenated veal ‘osso-buco.’” Delicious. (Caesar. Ossobuco or osso buco.)

But here are a couple of true stories from the Grammar Patrol.

Judith spotted a ten-foot-high billboard in downtown Los Angeles that read, “Slow down unless your planning to become a hood ornament.” (Should be “you’re.”)

Several years ago, a physical therapist told Edith, “Lay on your side.” And that’s when it happened. Edith’s mouth opened and before her brain went into gear, out came, “Lie.” She was so embarrassed. Fortunately, this young woman was a professional, completely open to understanding why thinking “recline” works for “lie” and “place” or “put” works for “lay.” Edith reminded her of the old saw, “Hens lay (eggs); people lie.”

This lay/lie mix-up goes right along with the caption of a glorious photo seen recently in our local paper. Picture a cow basking on a waterbed. We’re not kidding here. Farmers report that cows’ health and the quality of their milk improve with use of waterbeds. The caption under the happy cow picture noted that “Waterbeds take pressure off their body when they lay down.” Two bloopers. First, it’s “their bodies” (plural) or “her body” (singular), but Elsie was lying down, not laying down. Reclining. Happily.

Homonyms

Homonyms, too, cause stinostifications. Take “peak,” “peek,” and “pique,” for example.

A travel magazine cover read, “Let New England peak your interest.”

Pique! Do mountains have peeks? No. Peaks!

Do babies play peak-a-boo? No. Peek!

Is it any wonder that English is a challenge?

Consider the full-page ad in a major newspaper: “Local Piggly-Wiggly closing it’s doors forever.”  Or this from a bank: “You agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless the bank and it’s officers . . .” (Both should be the possessive “its.”)

Check out these subject/verb agreement problems:

Edith spotted this sign posted outside a San Diego restroom.

Blooper sign

The line at men’s and women’s restrooms vary because of the length of time it takes us to pee: men average 45 seconds; women spend about 79 seconds. [should be varies].

Having those products in our store are essential.   Having (it) is

There’s a lot of infectious organisms on these stethoscopes.   There are

Let’s see how Dagwood and his crew meets the demand for fried turkey next Thanksgiving.   (they) meet

Oh, those pronouns. They cause bloopers galore.

Which one is right in these five sentences? (Don’t peek. Answers below.)

1. This means a lot to my friend and I/me.

2. I hope that my husband and I/me can visit Hawaii.

3. She/Her and I love roller coasters.

4. He/Him and Allan had fun at the game.

5. Here’s a photo of Tom Hanks and I/me.

How did you do?

1. me   (Object of preposition “to”)

2. I       (“My husband and I” is the subject of a clause.)

3. she   (Part of the compound subject of the sentence)

4. I       (Same deal: part of the compound subject of the sentence)

5. me   (Object of the proposition “of”)

Seriously, we hear this last error a lot: “Here’s a photo of Tom and I.” No! It’s a photo of Tom and me!)

How about some spoken bloopers, such as those heard on the radio, TV, and in daily speech?

“Let this music of Mozart envelope you.” What? Mozart in an envelope? No way. This should be envelop (en VEH lop). Note no “e” on the end and accent on second syllable.

For et cetera, etc., do you hear “eck cetera,” when it should be “et,” which means “and” in Latin?

For nuclear, avoid the egregious “NOO cue ler.” Say “NOO clee er.” There is no “cue” in nuclear.

How about “Where’s it at?” Mama mia! Bag that ending preposition. Just say, “Where is it?”

Correcting bloopers we hear and see is not our policy. But here’s our true confession: We do correct spelling and grammar bloopers in library books and sometimes even on menus. Lightly. With pencil. That’s just between you and us (not “between you and I” or “between you and we”).

Please share

That’s all for now from the Grammar Patrol. Keep those bloopers, pet peeves, and other grammar queries coming!

The Author’s Dilemma: Website or Blog?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Roxyanne Young
eFrog Press is delighted to welcome Roxyanne Young as a regular contributor. Roxy is a children’s author and photographer with extensive knowlege about websites. To connect with your readers online, you may want to create a web presence. In this post, Roxy covers the basics in clear, non-techy English.

 

If the Internet has revolutionized the publishing industry, it’s revolutionized the marketing industry, too. Just twenty short years ago, we were all marveling over CDs and lamenting the demise of the vinyl LP. The Big Thing then was America Online. Live chat with real people all over the world. Amazing. We were fascinated by websites and e-commerce. We could shop from our living rooms via online catalogs and have packages show up at our doors. Amazon.com became the world’s bookstore, and then the world’s shopping mall.

In the last two decades, authors have been empowered by electronic publishing options, too, thanks to publishers like eFrog Press. Even traditional houses are embracing ebooks. But it’s not enough just to write a book anymore. These days you have to be your own marketing department, too. The Big Thing now: your Author Platform.

Websites, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, GoodReads . . . where do you start? And really, how do you deal with the monumental time suck of building and maintaining that platform?

The easy answer: Build a website that includes a blog and integrate it with the social media outlets you use the most.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be outlining just how to do that, but let’s start with an overview.

If I have a blog, do I really need a website?

Yes, you do. A blog is an ever-growing collection of posts that changes every time you update your status with a new message. A website, though, is a collection of static pages with content that doesn’t change much at all. …Continue Reading

Who reads ebooks?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

eFrog Press is happy to welcome our new Unknown Reader. As she waits for the delivery of her very first ereader, the Unknown Reader answers a question with an ever-changing answer: who reads ebooks?

My first ereader, a Kindle Paperwhite, will arrive on my doorstep by the end of this month (hopefully). But first I want to know who’s already reading ebooks. Which consumers have beat me to the punch?

Reading ebooks  at work

Across the Internet, people have discussed—and continue to discuss—the demographics of ebookies (my coinage for readers of ebooks). For the first time in history, in the first quarter of 2012, adult fiction and non-fiction American ebook sales exceeded hardcover sales. Canada isn’t too far behind the same milestone, and US ebook sales are closing in on paperback sales. Although the numbers for all of 2012 aren’t in yet, each year from 2007 to 2011 saw ebook sales more than double. So who’s propelling these ebook sales into competition with print?

Here’s the rundown of readers.

…Continue Reading

Author wonders, do you read for character, plot, or setting?

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Judith LownJudith Lown is the author of A Match for Lady Constance (Avalon) and A Sensible Lady: A Traditional Regency Romance (eFrog Press). She is hard at work on a sequel but still makes time to blog.

A perennial question for readers is: Do you read for character, plot, or setting?  Of course, this is an artificial choice. Most of us read for all three—or at least we don’t want a major disappointment in any of these three elements.

But, in a romance novel, plot and setting will not compensate for undifferentiated or unconvincing characters. The plot, after all, is already known: Man meets woman.  Man loses woman/Woman loses man. Man and woman find each other. Even if this plot plays out in an engrossing setting, it still will fall flat if there is not something unique about this particular man and this particular woman. If the plot is satisfying, much of it will be the natural playing out of the character and motivations of this man and this woman.

Do writers create or discover their characters? I’m not sure. I do know that characters won’t be shy about telling a writer what they will or will not do. Lady Constance actually let me know that she was quite worried that I was the one who was writing her story. She wasn’t at all certain that I was up to the task.

…Continue Reading

Who or Whom? A Writer’s Dilemma

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

Owl

Whooooooo or Whom?

“Who is it?” “To whom shall I RSVP?” “Who may I ask is calling?

Who and whom can confuse even wise old owls.

Yes, these three examples are correct. In the third, vacuum out the words “may I ask” to get the simplified “Who is calling?”

Who and whom belong to that merry band of interrogative pronouns (along with cousins what, which, and whose) that ask questions. But who and whom are the ones that cause confusion. So whooooo can use who/whom tips? Everyone!

* “Who” is always a subject, either of a sentence or a clause.

Wait a sec. What’s a clause again? A clause is a group of words with both a subject and predicate. A clause can be a complete sentence or an incomplete sentence:

People notice   what you wear.
(independent clause)  (dependent clause)
(complete sentence)   (incomplete sentence)

…Continue Reading

How Do My Readers Find Me on Twitter? Advice for Indie Authors

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

So you’re on Twitter and if you created an account when last we spoke on the topic, you’ve hopefully been tweeting for a while. (Or if you’re old hat at this, then you’ve probably already racked up hundreds of tweets and followers — good on you!) Now let’s chat about the nitty gritty of Twitter and how you can get the most out of your engagement with your readers on this social platform.

When You Post
Have you noticed an increase in engagement when you post on Monday mornings as opposed to Friday afternoons? Pay attention to what times of day are working best for you and your followers. Post in those high-energy time frames instead of during the dead zones.

When to Tweet to Maximize Interaction with Readers

Also pay attention to how often you are posting . . . twelve times in a day might be too much for your followers. But only once every other day or so might not be enough. Every audience is different so observe yours and notice when peak times are and take advantage.

What to Post
A great way to know what your followers are passionate about is to watch which tweets get a good response and lots of retweets. Knowing which topics are bound to lead to more engagement is a good measure to what you should tweet about in the future.

Make Your Page More Interactive
Twitter just launched a new header treatment available on profile pages. You can now better customize the design of your profile and include a large header photo. This will better enable you to promote both yourself and your writing. Check out Twitter’s advice on how to customize your Twitter design to get started.

measure twitter activityTake Your Measurements
It’s time for a Twitter check-up! Have you been taking your own measurements? There’s an abundance of sites available to take the temperature of your social media presence, including how your tweets are doing. Sites like TweetStats will pull in your account info and show how you are doing and areas you can improve upon.

Check out how eFrog Press rates on TweetStats with this fun graphic on daily Tweets.

Another great tool to utilize is Klout, which measures your social media influence based on how well you do on various platforms and presents you with a final score of your influence. The tool can pull in multiple social media networks. If you want to check just your Twitter score, you can filter individually.

Keeping score on how you’re doing on Twitter can help you find the best nuggets to share with your audience, and propel you into a higher following for both your books and your social media platforms.

Happy tweeting!

Please Share
How do you interact with your readers through Twitter? Do you think this interaction has increased your book sales? Please share your Twitter successes with us.

The Unknown Reader Signs Off Sharing Ereader Tips for Travel

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

eFrog Press has been honored to post the monthly musings of The Unknown Reader. After all, where would writers be without readers? However, our Unknown Reader has increased her travel schedule and can no longer expound regularly about ereaders and ebooks. Since no one has ever seen her face, perhaps we could use a stand in who is equally passionate about ebooks. If you would like to audition to fill in for The Unknown Reader, please send your blog post ideas via the eFrog Press Form. We will protect your identity!

Missed earlier posts? Here they are:

More is Less When You Travel with An Ereader

The Unknown Reader’s Ereader Tools for Travel

Have Ereader, Will Travel

Crash! Bang! Flash! Those were the sounds we heard as our plane took off from San Salvador airport in the midst of a hellacious thunder and lightening storm. It was at that moment I found yet another unexpected use for my Kindle—an adult pacifier! As the plane taxied down the runway in a torrential downpour, I held onto my Kindle as if it were my lifeline! It withstood an immeasurable pounds-per-square-inch human grasp and allowed me to channel all of my “fear factor energy” onto its small surface. The first portion of the flight was equivalent to being on the world’s bumpiest roller coaster. My Kindle permitted me to become distracted as I read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

The Unknown Reader takes a reading break after hiking to Machu Picchu

Yes, we survived the flight and returned with rich, vivid memories and life-altering experiences from our summer travels. We developed a deep admiration for the Inca civilization and the Quechua people, who taught us so much about Peru’s rich yet tragic history. The Galapagos was also an exhilarating experience. To swim with sea lions, penguins, and marine iguanas is quite simply indescribable. The Galapagos is a photographer’s paradise and we have over 6,000 digital pictures to prove it!

My Kindle is now filled with the names and emails of many new friends we met while exploring Peru and Ecuador. I suspect I also inspired quite a few people to add an ereader to their travel “must haves” as they watched me retrieve information or add a notation on my own ereader.

After returning from this extensive trip I have decided to put my energy into photography, volunteering at a local wildlife museum, and, most importantly, coordinating an effort to assist one of the Quechua porters who carried our gear on the Inca Trail. My husband and I want to secure the funds so 64-year-old Mario can have cataract surgery. He needs to be able to visually soak in the beauty of his homeland—a land and a people we have grown to love.  It is also time to begin planning next summer’s adventure—cycling from Prague to the North Sea. My plate is full, so this will be my last Unknown Reader entry. I wish you safe travels and encourage you to leave room in your satchel for your ereader.

Fond Farewell

Help us bid a fond farewell to The Unknown Reader who has dazzled us with her travels and her inventive use of her Kindle ereader. Before she goes off  into the sunset she would love to know how your ereader has added to the quality of your life either on an exotic trip or in the comfort of your own home. Please share.

What’s an author to do?

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Elisabeth StorrsElisabeth Storrs is the author of The Wedding Shroud, the first book in a trilogy set in early Roman times. Elisabeth has long held a passion for the history, myths and legends of the ancient world. She graduated from the University of Sydney with a degree in Arts Law having studied Classics along the way. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two sons and over the years has worked as a solicitor, corporate lawyer, governance consultant and is now a corporate writer.

So you’ve been writing for years—slaving over one novel until a transfusion is needed to replenish the blood you’ve sweated.  Confused over varying opinions, you’ve murdered enough of your darlings that you’d be gaoled for life if your words were children. And after constant editing you find yourself murmuring each noun, verb, phrase and sentence of your manuscript by heart.

Rejection has strengthened your character (you hope). Perseverance has become your mantra. Above all, the need to escape into a world of imagination has become as vital to you as eating, sleeping and working at your ‘day job’. And then, if you are lucky, the impossible happens. The stars align and suddenly your novel is accepted, not only by an agent but by a publisher as well. You start upon a giddy ride, not quite believing that you are now moving through a process that you’ve only visualised: structural reports, copyediting and proofreading.  Suddenly your words are typeset, not just typed upon a screen. The heft of the paperback in your hand is a marvel. Seeing your name upon a cover is like a dream.

Expectations are high. Your publisher’s reps work hard to sell your title to bookshops, and a lot of money is expended to market it in magazines and newsprint. The launch is celebrated with laughter and bubbly. And then the publicity merry-go-round begins. . .

After ten years of researching and writing my novel, The Wedding Shroud: A Tale of Ancient Rome,  I was fortunate enough to have it traditionally published. The experience was wonderful and I was delighted to have commissioning and copy editors who helped me polish it to publishable standard. What I didn’t realise, though, were two basic facts: releasing a book is a gamble, and success needs to be immediate.

Publishing houses place a large bet when financing a book.  In the past, they were prepared to back debut authors in the belief that, over time, such writers could build up a following. Alas, no longer.  If a writer is unable to sell enough books in the first few months of publication, their novel is soon “spine” outwards, then no longer stocked at all, as the relentless release of new titles pressure the booksellers to make room on the shelves. Soon the only avenues left to sell a novel are online or as an ebook. Yet publishers tend to price digital books far too high due to a business model with a supply chain built on bricks and mortar. In effect, the author’s cheaper e-version is in competition with their higher priced paperback. Guess which one a publisher would prefer to promote?

I’m an Australian author. The paperback version of The Wedding Shroud was only published in Australia and New Zealand. This proved a problem because I soon discovered that my main readership is located in the USA and the UK. For an overseas reader to buy my novel involves prohibitive delivery costs. As a result, being able to publish an ebook is crucial in order to reach a world-wide audience.

Sales of The Wedding Shroud were respectable but far from meteoric.  After six months I found myself in the predicament of many other midlist authors—marooned! I was expected to generate my own publicity and market my book via a constant presence in social media. And yet I had no control over its high price as both an ebook and a paperback in online bookstores.

So what was I to do? …Continue Reading

Adverbs for Authors Part 2

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

Miss our first blog post on adverbs? Learn How and When to Use Adverbs.

Adverbs can empower your writing or cripple your sentences when they prop up weak verbs.

First, ready for a quick dose of intensive grammar? Intransitive verbs don’t take adverbs.

Ack. Intransitive? What’s that? To remember the meaning of “intransitive,” know its inside story. The prefix “in” means “not.” The root “trans” means “across.” You can’t “carry” an “object” across an intransitive verb. There was house. He sat chair. Those sound goofy with an object after the verb. So was and sat are intransitive. In a dictionary, you’ll see v.i.—meaning “verb intransitive”—after some verbs. That’s a reminder not to plop an object down after those verbs.

Right (Thumbs Up): Mr. Dribnobble lectures endlessly.

Wrong (Thumbs Down): Mr. Dribnobble is endlessly.

Why?  The second one sounds weird! Use the adverb “endlessly” to describe how Mr. Dribnobble lectures.  Don’t use “endlessly” with a form of the verb “to be.”

…Continue Reading

Getting Connected on LinkedIn® Professional Networking Services

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Getting Connected on LinkedIn

Are you linked in? Or is this foreign territory in the great land of social media for you? To bring you up to speed a bit, LinkedIn is the leading social networking directory for professionals and companies. While your fans might not be found here, your colleagues certainly will. More than 120 million people connect regularly on this site to find job opportunities and network with others.

You can easily create an online account to share your résumé, writing history, upcoming books, and more about you.

Link Up to Your Advantage
This great social networking tool is a great approach to connecting with other authors, editors, agents, researchers, and others in the publishing world. You never know when you might need a contact at a publishing house and LinkedIn® professional networking services is the place to find it.

…Continue Reading

How your copy editor can save the day: Part 2

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Today you  hear once again from our behind-the-scene folks–our copy editors. Many authors see our copy editors as superheroes who swoop in and save the day–or at least save the manuscript. In Part 2, the eFrog Press copy editors share their experiences over their long careers in publishing. Learn how copyediting can lead to publishing success or, at least, prevent publishing disasters!

Missed Part 1? Read What copy editors want writers to know to learn how a professional copy editor can add value to your book.

“A reader is just like an editor/agent; they will not take your work seriously if you don’t.” JP

“The goal of a copy editor is to make the writing seamless, NOT to change the writing or the words!” SC

How can copyediting lead to publishing success?

Superhero editor to the rescue!

JP: For traditional publishing (i.e., not ebooks) through a traditional publishing house or agency, most editors and agents will usually only read the first few pages of a manuscript to determine if they are interested in pursuing it further. If the writing is sloppy and there are obvious errors, typos, and misspellings, most editors/agents will dismiss the manuscript immediately. A clean copy shows that you are serious about your work and dedicated to making it the best it can possibly be. A good editor will recognize this and know a good working relationship can be forged with the writer for future edits and revisions.

When it comes to ebooks, the editor/agent is usually not in the picture, so a skilled copy editor is even more important to bridge that critical—and hopefully permanent—relationship between author and reader. A reader is just like an editor/agent; they will not take your work seriously if you don’t.

SC: Readers will be drawn to typos and badly constructed sentences! They will remember being stopped by an awkward sentence rather than remembering the plot or a very good moment in the book. If the manuscript is full of grammatical errors, some might not even finish it. Grammar and punctuation should be flowing and insignificant in the reader’s mind; if punctuation or grammar causes pause or confusion, the manuscript has not been copyedited properly. The goal of a copy editor is to make the writing seamless, NOT to change the writing or the words!

There is also the issue of plot inconsistencies. Because the author is so close the work, and has been toiling away on the manuscript for a great deal of time, they oftentimes simply do not see when things don’t add up. A fresh set of professional eyes is necessary to find those things and bring them to the author’s attention. …Continue Reading

What copy editors want writers to know: Part 1

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Perhaps the most valuable service we offer at eFrog Press is copyediting and proofreading. Until you have worked with a professional copy editor, you have no idea how much value he or she can add to your book. Indie authors are often reluctant to spend money on editing. After all, their neighbor was an English major or their friend offered to edit their book for free. Sometimes you get what you pay for. Serious readers are offended by grammatical errors and typos.

Today you get to hear from our behind-the-scene folks–our copy editors. Authors we work with have praised their skill and speed.  I have asked them to share their experience with you.

“A copy editor can transform a manuscript from good to great without leaving any fingerprints.” MA

1. What is copyediting and why is it important (or even necessary) in this era of spell check and grammar check?

JP: Copyediting is the art of fine-tuning your writing to make it into the best reading experience possible for your readers — without losing the all-important author’s voice. It goes beyond just a simple spell check or grammar check (which often isn’t even correct in most word processing programs!) to checking for plot and character consistency, correct word usage (especially in younger books, when vocabulary must be age appropriate), and  adherence to a consistent style (in the publishing world, it’s almost always the Chicago Manual of Style).

SC: Copyediting is a process where each word and sentence is analyzed for proper usage and meaning. A copy editor is painstakingly analytical and will look for things in a sentence that make it grammatically incorrect or misleading, and then suggest ways to fix it. Spell check and grammar check can only do so much; they will not fix words that are correctly spelled but inaccurately used (i.e., farther/further). It will also not find missing words (i.e., The dog went to park). A copy editor also often finds plot inconsistencies or spelling inconsistencies that are sometimes overlooked by the author. For example, I just copyedited a manuscript that alternated the spelling of one character’s name (Sylvia vs. Silvia).

…Continue Reading

Learn how and when to use adverbs

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

We (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar (Ten Speed Press/Random House). Both books are available as ebooks. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

You need to pack a clear understanding of adverbs in your writer’s toolkit. Don’t use an adverb when a powerful verb can do the job. Bag adverbs completely? They do have their useful purpose, as in “The bobcat crept soundlessly toward the plump rabbit.”

Verbs are the engines that power your sentences. Strong verbs create images in your mind and tighten your writing. In these two sentence pairs, which of the two sentences creates the stronger image?

The couple walked slowly.

The couple strolled. [“strolled” is a strong verb]

Angrily Terry left the room.

Terry stomped from the room. [“stomped” is a strong verb]

This doesn’t mean you’ll never use adverbs again—but treat them like gold, used in the perfect spot. (As for “suddenly,” some writers put that on their forbidden list along with the vague “very,” “little,” and “beautiful.”)

…Continue Reading

21 Senses Part 4

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

LC, founder of eFrog Press, hosts the Take the Leap blog and regularly blogs about all things ebook!

Here is the fourth and final post on the 21 Senses. Previous posts can be found here:

An Introduction to the 21 Senses (Part 1)

21 Senses Revisited (Part 2)

21 Senses Part 3

Below are the last  six models from two of the finest writing teachers I have ever known—Gary Bradshaw (1948-1994) and Frank Barone, active poet and retired teacher (derived from  the 21 Senses exercises in Donald Murray’s A Writer Teaches Writing). 

Consider adding these senses to your writing toolkit.

SENSE OF READER

MEMO: To All Teachers

Sally Haines, one of our school’s counselors, gave birth last night to an eight pound baby girl named Sara Anne. Sally requests that we postpone our visit until she and her baby have returned home.

Jake Barnes, Principal

SENSE OF INVOLVEMENT

This Sense creates a situation in which the writer or a character is emotionally touched by someone else’s predicament and comes to the aid of that person.

As my son breaks through an opening, dribbling, pushing the soccer ball forward, an opponent slide crashes, and cleats up into him from behind. My son cartwheels forward. No referee’s whistle sounds. Suddenly, he shrieks, clutching his Achilles tendon. In anger I yell, “Blow your damn whistle, ref, when there’s a vicious foul.”

SENSE OF DETACHMENT

This Sense creates a situation in which the writer or a character sees a problem. The problem moves him, but he cannot offer relief.

I placed the last item in my shopping cart and wheeled it into line behind the mother with the screaming baby and the tactile three year old whose hands  touched  and  grabbed  and  pushed  and  re­aligned all the candy bars, chewing gum, mints, and magazines  within  his  reach.  The mother tried to divide her attention equally between the screamer and the toucher, but it became obvious that they outmatched her. At the point of feeling sorry for her, I saw her bend over and with her face eyeball to eyeball with Sally Screamer she hissed out two deliberate  words, “Shut … up.” Then she straightened up and slapped Tommy Toucher across his face. As a parent I wanted to engage her in reasoned discourse on her lack of control and debate with her on her methodology of discipline, but I only slouched behind my cart and tried to block out the wails and sniffles that offended my ears.

SENSE OF CURIOSITY

Bending over her paper, her pen raced across the page. From time to time, she looked up, caught my gaze, smiled mischievously, and wrote on. Once she whispered to her seatmate, pointing at me. Then she pounced on her paper again. I wonder, am I the target of her pen?

SENSE OF LANGUAGE

“Hi, Gerry. How was your game?”

“Totally bogus. I took a nine on Number 5. I teed it up and dunked it into the lake. Then I shanked my drive into the trees on the right. The ball landed up against a tree, and I couldn’t get relief so I took a swipe at it and whiffed. I punched it out with a seven iron short of the green, and then hit a wedge into the sand trap. I blasted out long but hit a good approach and sank a two-footer for nine. After that it was bogie, bogie, double bogie, bogie and a big fat 42.”

“Some days are like that, Gerry.”

“Right. I’ve got a starting time for a foursome at three. See you tomorrow.”

SENSE OF FORM

This Sense puts words in some specific shape or form.

CINQUAIN

New friend

come together

risk within the circle

share, listen, laugh, and change into

old friends.

SENSE OF IRONY

I had difficulty working with my father. I could never match his high standards. Whatever I did either displeased him or received suggestions on how to do it right. He demanded perfection, or so it seemed to this teenager. The other day I angrily criticized my fourteen-year-old son for not using his paintbrush properly. His response showed me how I felt about my own father when my son said, “I’m sorry I can’t be as perfect as you.”

 Feedback

I would love to hear how you have used the 21 Senses in your own writing. Do you think sensory detail is overrated? Share any techniques you have for “showing” not “telling.”

 

21 Senses Part 3

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

LC, founder of eFrog Press, hosts the Take the Leap blog and regularly blogs about all things ebook!

If you have been following my posts on the 21 Senses exercises to add sensory detail to your writing, here is Part 3. If not, here are links to my earlier posts on the topic:

An Introduction to the 21 Senses (Part 1)

21 Senses Revisited (Part 2)

Ever wonder what it means when your manuscript comes back marked “Show, don’t tell!”? The 21 Senses exercises will supply the answer for writing with more detail but not just embroidering your text.

Here are more models from two of the finest writing teachers I have ever known—Gary Bradshaw (1948-1994) and Frank Barone, active poet and retired teacher (derived from  the 21 Senses exercises in Donald Murray’s A Writer Teaches Writing). 

These additional five non-traditional senses can challenge you to add details that matter to your manuscript.

SENSE OF HISTORY

This Sense goes back into the past to describe an event that happened before the Writer’s birth.

I had heard the story many times from my father. My father had come to America as a young boy. No matter how young, every immigrant family worked to survive. My father had worked shining shoes. When the school officials came to place him in school, his mother and father lied about his age to keep him out of school. So he worked to help support his family. In  his  spare  time  he  would read  until  his  father ripped the book from his hands  and told him to get back to work. He continued to read, though, when­ ever he could, and taught himself to speak and write English well enough to get a job with Western Union. Years later he became the head of communications for the Commercial Bank of Italy and, after World War II, for Cities Service Oil Company. I always describe my father as a self-taught man.

…Continue Reading

21 Senses Revisited

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

LC, founder of eFrog Press, hosts the Take the Leap blog and regularly blogs about all things ebook!

In my last blog post I introduced the 21 Senses exercises developed by two of the finest writing teachers I have ever known—Gary Bradshaw (1948-1994) and Frank Barone, active poet and retired teacher (derived from  the 21 Senses exercises in Donald Murray’s A Writer Teaches Writing). 

Now that we have covered the traditional senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste), let’s explore the next four that can challenge a writer to add specificity.

SENSE OF THE SPECIFIC

This Sense shows the specific detail that makes one object different from other objects of the same kind.

Soccer BallI reached into the green-mesh bag of soccer balls for the game ball. Quickly I set aside two black-and­ white marked MeKasa soccer balls. These played well for practice, but I wanted the best ball for the game. Digging deeper into the bag, I rolled out two black-and-white MeKasas, yellowing from age. Shaking my head, I pulled out two Umbro soccer balls. Blue and red diamonds twisted around the balls. The hand stitching that bound them together spelled quality and pleased me. Grabbing one, I pressed in on it. Slightly under-inflated, this ball would flatten against the foot like a mushroom when kicked. Picking up the second Umbro, I pressed in on it, and, finding it firm, I tossed it to the referee. …Continue Reading

How to write with sensory detail and active verbs

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

LC, founder of eFrog Press, hosts the Take the Leap blog and regularly blogs about all things ebook!

“I find there is nothing more beautiful, for example, than the very basic components of language, nouns and verbs.” Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

An author I was working with recently had written an amazing story but included very little detail. I was reminded of a powerful writing exercise developed by two of the finest writing teachers I have ever known—Gary Bradshaw (1948-1994) and Frank Barone, active poet and retired teacher. Based on the 21 Senses exercises in Donald Murray’s A Writer Teaches Writing (Houghton Mifflin, 1968), writers are encouraged to generate their own topics in their own voices while producing specific, detailed, “showing” sentences and paragraphs on 21 different senses. The results are dramatic!

Bradshaw and Barone challenged their high school writing seminar students to eliminate verbs of being from their writing—almost an impossible task for some. Students were also challenged to compose 21 tightly written, “showing” paragraphs. The 21 Senses can transform your writing. So take the challenge! Here are the first five senses complete with models written by Bradshaw and Barone for their students.

…Continue Reading

Straight quotes, curly quotes, ellipses: what’s a writer to do?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

The Grammar PatrolWe (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

President Abraham LincolnWriting with word processing software gives you more options than the old days of typewriters, but it also gives you gives you more ways to get into trouble. Most of us have twigged to the difference between the typewriter’s straight quotation marks and computer-generated curly ones. You’ll often hear the latter called curly quotes or smart quotes. If Honest Abe is reciting the Gettysburg address, the curly quotation that marks the beginning of his speech, should face the words—they’ll resemble the number 66: Four score and seven years ago . . .” At the end of his speech, the marks form a 99: “shall not perish from the earth.

The same goes for single quotes, but they’re like the numerals 6 and 9: “I’ll call you Wart-Nose if I like,” yelled Dorothy at the Wicked Witch.

Do use straight quotes (‘ or “), not curly quotes, to indicate feet and inches:  42′ 9″.  (Note that the period goes outside because the quotation mark indicates inches, not a direct quotation.)

Details, details, details . . .

Ellipses: “Wait. What was I saying . . .?”

Those three dots that can indicate your brain’s gone on vacation are called an ellipsis. Handily, the word is from the Greek word meaning “omission.” …Continue Reading

How Tai Chi Improved My Writing

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

LC, founder of eFrog Press, hosts the Take the Leap blog and regularly blogs about all things ebook! This week she reflects on her new tai chi practice and how it influences her writing.

Black and white symbol for Yin and YangAfter years of teaching writing, writing articles, editing, working with authors, and meeting in writing groups; I get it. Writing is a process. My former high school students would toss off one draft and be ready to turn it in. “I’m done!” they would announce.

“But you need to revise,” I would remind them.

“You mean you want me to copy it over?” they would whine.

“No, read it aloud to your group, listen to their suggestions, and then revise. Revision is the key. Break the word into two: re and vision. See your writing again with new eyes (my favorite definition for revision courtesy of Frank Barone, retired teacher and active poet).”

To be honest, I have struggled with the concept of revision myself. After reading my sixth draft of my doctoral dissertation, my chair said to me, “I think you left some of this in your head. You need to make the connections for your reader. Get the rest down on paper.” …Continue Reading

Twitter 101: A Crash Course for Authors

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

So you’re new to the social media world and wondering what the heck this Twitter is, am I right? What’s a tweet, why would you tweet at someone, and who in the world are tweeples???

Have no fear, Twitter newbies, today we’re going to delve into the basics of all things Twitter and tweets and soon enough you’ll be ready to jump on the birdie bandwagon with the best of them.

First, let’s get down to the basics.

What Is Twitter?

Twitter is an open and public social networking site that allows you to create a profile and share “tweets” with your readers and the world at large in short bursts (also known as 140 characters, or what’s called microblogging). Your followers are people who follow your Twitter feed to see what you post about. Likewise, you can follow others to see what they’re saying. Tweets from everyone you follow will show up on your main Twitter feed so it’s easy to read what’s going on.

Why Should I Join Twitter?

It’s a great place to interact with your readers in a casual, public atmosphere (as opposed to the more structured and private Facebook), as well as make connections with other authors, agents, publishers, and people to know in the biz. It’s one of the greatest social networking tools available right now — and it’s F-R-E-E! …Continue Reading

More is Less When You Travel with an Ereader

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

The Unknown ReaderTake the Leap welcomes monthly posts from The Unknown Reader. Her posts give writers a chance to learn how this avid reader uses her ereader. Today she shares preparations for yet another travel adventure.

It’s happening again! I wake up in a cold sweat and must breathe deeply to calm down… I have to remind myself it was only a bad dream! Every time the departure date for a long journey draws ever closer I have the same dream—I am at the airport about to check-in and realize I forgot my passport! However, last night’s dream had a new twist! I see myself clearing security and a look of panic overtakes me… “Where is my Kindle?”

I suspect you are wondering, “So what’s the big deal if you forget your ereader?” Please read on and learn how I have transformed a Kindle into my personal tour guide and why this new pre-trip nightmare justifiably turned my blood cold!

I have spent the past eight months reading samples of travel books, which I downloaded on my Kindle as possible resources for our upcoming trip to Peru and Ecuador. I have purchased three: Moon Handbooks: Peru by Ross Wehner and Renee Del Guadio, Lonely Planet: Discover Peru, and Moon Handbooks: Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands by Ben Westwood.

…Continue Reading

From Out-of-Print to Ebook!

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Edith Hope Fine has  taught school, tutored, run after-school programs, and done a lot of writing—newspapers, magazines, books. She’s written 15 books and today she is blogging about her first venture into ebooks.

Is your book out of print? Do you own the rights? Think about heading to the Wonderful Land of ebooks. That’s what I did. When my Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist went out of print that seemed the end of the trail. Instead, as of April, it’s an ebook with gorgeous new cover, color illustrations in the interior, a hyperlinked table of contents, and cool links, thanks to eFrog Press.

Here’s the step-by-step process to create an ebook.

Scrutinize Original Book
Does your research hold?

My research in the late ‘90s included trips to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island and the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, across from the Liberty Bell. Maize scientists gave me input as I worked to make her complex discoveries understandable for readers sixth grade and up. I knew the research was solid.

Is your topic noteworthy?

Barbara McClintock has been called one of the most important figures in twentieth-century science. Key figure? Yes.

…Continue Reading

Grammar Tips for Authors on Reflexive Pronouns

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

The Grammar Patrol

We (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest of Us All?

grammar for authors

“Mirror, mirror, on the Wall, who is the fairest of us all?” the Evil Queen intones. When the mirror gives the wrong answer, the Evil Queen intervenes and shouts, “Myself!”  Even queens make grammar mistakes.

The high hopes Snow White’s Evil Queen had for her mirror didn’t turn out so well. But that’s another story.

Mirrors reflect images. Some days we look in the mirror and say, “EEEK!” Other days, we say, “Good enough!” Like mirrors, certain pronouns reflect or refer back to a noun or pronoun that appears earlier in a sentence. In Grammarspeak, such pronouns are called reflexive pronouns. The “-self” or “-selves” endings tip you off to the reflexives

…Continue Reading

Nonfiction Ebooks Provide that Something Extra

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

L.C., founder of eFrog Press, hosts the Take the Leap blog and regularly blogs about all things ebook!

A Sensible Lady: A Tradtional Regency RomanceIt has been a busy spring at eFrog Press. While we began the year with fiction titles, our most recent projects have been nonfiction. What an adventure! We love to work with fiction authors on developing plot, characters, dialogue, and concrete details. Our copy editors work diligently to ensure each author’s voice shines through loud and strong while preventing grammar and usage issues from interfering with a reader’s escape into the story. As testament to our success, Judith Lown’s A Sensible Lady received this Amazon reader review by M.H. posted on May 9 and excerpted here:

Happily, the story unfolds through action and naturally flowing dialogue rather than by “telling” the reader what is happening. The author apparently had an editor who insisted on grammatical and spelling checks prior to publication which is very welcome.

But I digress. Nonfiction has provided new joys and challenges. Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist, a biography for children, is the first in our Spotlight Biography series. The series will include a variety of biographies for children by several authors. Since it is part of a series, formatting and design decisions required input from both Edith Hope Fine, the author, and from other series authors who were still getting rights or permissions for their biographies. …Continue Reading

The Top 10 Ways Authors Connect to Readers on Facebook

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The Social Media Goddess unveils secrets and strategies to keep your social media presence  effervescent and effective.

You’ve got your page built up and — lo and behold! — you’ve even started accumulating fans. Now comes the hard part — get them to stick around and participate on your page.  You want to begin a lively conversation. People will “unlike” you if you’re boring or too quiet and they’ll “hide” or “unlike” you if you’re too noisy, so try to find a common ground. So what is an author to do?

Consider starting out with posts a couple of times a week and add more as you have time. Try not to post more than once a day, however. If you’re hearing crickets, consider cutting back a bit. Pay attention to the types of posts that get a good response and those that die on your Timeline.

Now, our top ten favorite ways to get your fans to interact with you:

…Continue Reading

The Roots of Regency Romance: A primer for authors

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Judith Lown is the author of A Match for Lady Constance (Avalon) and A Sensible Lady: A Traditional Regency Romance (eFrog Press). She is hard at work on a sequel but still makes time to blog.

Judith LownThe first Regency Romances weren’t historical; they were contemporary fiction written by Jane Austen.  But her work established critical standards that are still used to evaluate romantic fiction today—200 years after she wrote.  Any literate female who reads English will be able to tell you when she first read an Austen novel and which is her favorite.

The first historical Regency Romances were written by Georgette Heyer from 1934-1972. It was Heyer who introduced the ton—London’s most select society—to fiction readers.  And her unique perspective on what makes a lady admirable and what makes a gentleman honorable is the yardstick by which connoisseurs of traditional Regencies still measure Regency Romance writers.

…Continue Reading

Facebook 101: Create an Author Presence

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

The Social Media Goddess will unveil secrets and strategies to keep your social media presence  effervescent and effective.

Friends? Fans? Likes? Walls? Timelines? If you’ve even surfed a little bit on Facebook some of these terms may sound familiar. But do you know what they mean? Facebook is nothing if not constantly changing and, oftentimes, confusing.

We’re here to help shine some light on the most recent changes and help you decide if Facebook is the right corner of the Internet for you to camp out and promote your writing.

Facebook is a social networking website that launched in 2004 and currently has more than 900 million active users. That’s quite the audience! Users need to register before using the site and can create a personal profile, add other users as “friends,” and share messages, status updates, and photos. They can also “like” business pages of various companies, schools, restaurants, and even authors like you and receive updates about those businesses/brands (Facebook uses the term “business” very loosely).

The first thing to know is that there are two main types of pages on Facebook— personal profiles and business pages. How to know which is right for you? …Continue Reading

Ems and Ens for Writers

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

The Grammar Patrol

Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson

The Grammar Patrol

grammar tips for authorsEvery writer needs an occasional M&M’s® boost. But do you know your ems and ens? Every small tip makes you more a pro.

In days of yore, when some of us made the leap from typewriter keyboard to word processor, so primitive were the programs that after pulling a manuscript from our dot matrix printers, we had to underline any words to be shown in italics (titles and such) by using a ruler and pen. We’ve come far, fellow writers, since then. …Continue Reading

The Unknown Reader’s ereader tools for travel

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

The Unknown Reader reading on an iPadBeing a Virgo, organization tools simply make me salivate!  The Kindle application Notepad put me into a complete trip-planning frenzy and has proven to be my absolute favorite “must have” application on my Kindle. Best of all, it can be purchased for just $.99 on Amazon! I have loaded this user-friendly program with all sorts of information that I can quickly access while traveling.

My husband and I travel for extended lengths of time, so the weight factor is always critical.  If you have ever taken the time to weigh the vast piles of papers that mysteriously end up in your traveling gear, you will appreciate my suggestions for using the Notepad application for the Kindle. …Continue Reading

The best writing advice from children’s authors

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

stack of old books

Last Saturday I heard a very inspiring talk that motivated me to do further revisions on two aging manuscripts. Below are 13 key points from Lin Oliver, author of 25 books for kids and co-founder and executive director of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Since 1971, she has attended 41 annual conferences and listened to speeches by many of the best children’s authors of our time. When she visited the San Diego chapter of SCBWI, she shared authors’ quotes that keep her inspired and guide her writing. These words of wisdom are not limited to children’s literature but apply to all good writing.  I hope they inspire you too! …Continue Reading

Letters, Missives, Epistolaries . . . You’ve Got Mail!

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Pinkerton Josephson loves to dig into the past. She believes that behind every person, every relationship, there lies a story. Today she tells the story behind the story of her latest historical fiction novel, Dear Heart: The Courting Letters. Her award-winning biographies, history books, and picture books include fiction and nonfiction for children.  She has also written for adults.

 

Dear Heart: The Courting Letters

Dear HeartA trip to my mailbox these days might yield bills, ads, and the usual collection of junk mail.  The sight of a handwritten letter nestled in the pile delights me. It was not always so. More than a century ago, letters and illustrated postcards were the main ways people communicated, be they friends, relations, or lovers. Phones were an expensive luxury.

Almost twenty years ago, when I discovered an antique writing box filled with courting letters from 1909-1910, even a cursory reading had me hooked.  Here were two people, Gertie and Fred, courting (a.k.a. dating, getting to know one another) via the written word and little packages they sent to each other. Separated between Ipswich, England, and St. Paul, Minnesota, a letter took ten days one way by train and ship. No instant communication was possible! The letter sent was usually not the one answered. I knew there was a story here, and it never let me alone.

I began by transcribing the letters. Fred wrote sixteen-page letters single-spaced. Gertie’s handwriting was creative, often spilling over onto play programs and church bulletins.

At my daughter Kirsten’s suggestion, I interwove a fictional modern couple’s story to add contrast. I chose 2010 in Chicago and Spain as the setting. Some elements—emotions, needs, hurdles, obstacles—are universal. But most young people in love today don’t write letters.  Multiple other vehicles for communication exist. The restraints that existed in 1910 have softened, but not disappeared entirely.

My research entailed digging deeper into the historical events mentioned in the letters and in the two eras.

I purposely highlighted the contrasts between the two stories—modes of communication, technology, transportation, dissemination of information, fashions, speech. One of the most interesting contrasts involved women’s rights and freedoms.

My modern heroine, Lisa, despite her troubles in the dating world, has the freedom make choices, to be an independent woman. My 1909-10 heroine, Gertie, though she admires the suffragettes, hesitates to tell Fred her true feelings; people criticize her for refusing to marry someone else she doesn’t love.

A peek at Lisa: “With the click of computer keys, the Internet made it possible to communicate with more than one person at a time. Lisa crawled into bed and clicked off the lamp. I’m just one small soup can on a grocery soup aisle filled with an array of brands. Why pick me?

A peek at Gertie: “Men had the best of it. Women, relegated to loving someone, but not showing it, must wait to put their true feelings into words until asked to be someone’s wife.” At another point, Mr. Jones, who rents a room from Gertie and fancies her, is off to a men’s-only meeting at church. Gertie writes, “How I wish I were a man.”

My vision for this book included illustrations. So I enlisted my artistically/graphically talented daughter Kirsten to turn photos, paintings, postcards, luggage tags, and letters into 27 vivid chapter openers and 17 interior illustrations.

Writer Wallace Stegner once said, “Any life will provide the material for writing, if it is attended to.”

So in Dear Heart: The Courting Letters, I attended to the lives of these two real people and invented two other fictional ones. Of the twenty-two books I’ve written, this one is close to my heart.

I hope readers will become as fascinated with history as I am and be inspired to listen to their hearts and persevere despite obstacles.

Persistence is the key to writing success. If an idea won’t let you alone, then follow it. Learn about the craft, research, revise, and read. Above all, write what you love!

Dear Heart is available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and bookstores.

Visit Judith at www.judithjosephson.com, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.